Kahili Adventist School has a long history on the island, with several changes in names and locations since being established in 1938.
Once Kauai’s flagship private school, Kahili Adventist is searching a permanent location after being forced to leave the shadow of Kahili Mountain where it existed for nearly three decades. For the last 3 1/2 years, the school is being held in Kapaa’s Seventh Day Adventist fellowship hall, currently with 20 kindergarten through eighth-grade students and 12 pre-school students.
“We are fundraising and looking for our own property to purchase,” said principal and teacher of Kahili Adventist School, Keith Hatcher. “The funds that we raise from the market go to help the school.”
The Adventist School runs a successful agricultural education program where students help harvest and sell produce at the Kapaa Farmers Market. The kids learn about gardening by helping at a private, half-acre, self-sustaining, organic farm near Olohena Road. The students also learn about business by selling the produce at the Wednesday farmers market.
“We want the kids to be part of that agricultural experience and to learn where their food comes from. Not everything comes shrink wrapped and bottled in the store,” said school board chairperson, Debbie Nakamura. “Some of these kids may grow up to be gardeners or farmers, and this is a good start for them.”
A couple of retired volunteers that belong to the church, Paul and Sandy Rivera, help lead the garden program. Students come to the farm three days a week for about an hour each time to help pull weeds, water plants, and harvest the fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
“We’re retired, so this is just something that we feel like we can contribute to the community,” Sandy said. “We just really enjoy the kids, and we want to do what we can to help them grow. We just have a good time at the garden with the kids.”
This week the students are harvesting kale, chard, green beans, lettuce, arugula, beets, carrots, parsley, pipinola, and edible flowers like borage, calendula and nasturtiums. They sell a lot of white pineapples at the market in the summer.
“Several local chefs from town buy from us each week,” Hatcher said. “We also specialize in edible flowers.”
Fifth-grader Rylie Donahoe enjoys being able to create her own garden space on the property. “You get your own rows, and then you get to decide what to plant. Then you get to take the produce home.”
She learned how to properly plant tomatoes, carrots and lettuce. Her classmate, Katelyn Ventar, likes harvesting carrots the best and took a bunch home Friday to use in a salad.
“Gardening is really good for the kids, especially to appreciate all the natural things that Jesus made and know the different kinds of vegetables and flowers we’re selling to the market,” said teacher aide, Vergie Same, whose son is in sixth grade at the school. “They appreciate the beauty, different kinds of colors, different kinds of shapes, and different kinds of usage for us.”
She notices that students can directly see the benefits to the community, and people are happy to help the school by purchasing produce at the market, especially since it’s organic and the price is low.
“Kahili’s a very small family-oriented school, so it’s a real tight little community of family. This is what you do as a family, working in the family garden learning those practical skills,” Nakamura added. “We don’t feel that all day in a classroom is healthy for a kid. We feel like kids need to be outside.”
Every week, students sit and read outside, participate in gardening, walk to the library and take swimming lessons. They also volunteer regularly at Limahuli Gardens and have already done two Surfrider beach cleanups this year.
“They just work together as a team. So we’re just kind of a big family that goes around doing nice things for people,” Hatcher said. “We’re just hoping and praying that there’s a special property that we can find to teach the kids in a natural setting.”