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`What we are doing here will benefit Kaua’i’
By LESTER CHANG
PUHI — When John Isobe, Gary Figueroa, Calvin Shirai and Mia
Ako survey the 40-acre farm project at Kaua’i Community College, they see
something that prepares for Kaua’i’s agricultural future and pays homage to its
The four leaders of the project have played key roles in helping
teach people how to farm better and get into new businesses.
Plans for the
farm also call for the construction of an education resource center boasting
exhibits featuring things Hawaiian and Grove Farm’s heyday as one of the
largest sugar plantations on Kaua’i. A multi-media and audio recording studio
is also part of the plan, according to Isobe, a project director.
what we are doing here will benefit Kaua’i,” Isobe said.
The Kaua’i Rural
Development project supports the Kaua’i County General Update plan calling for
an active tourism industry and new businesses that will help strengthen the
The project also will prepare many new farmers for the
day when more sugar and state lands are made available for the burgeoning
diversified agriculture business.
The project will feature a small-business
academy, an educational resource center, an archeological archival center and
On the farm, students learn about Hawaiian plants
and tropical plants, taro and organic farming, alternative energy generation,
community gardening, agro-forestry and production of fresh fruits and
vegetables, said Figueroa, a diversified agriculture program
Program participants also will learn how to propagate trees
for the tree industry on Kaua’i, he said.
The farm provided training for
students involved in the Gateway project, a $5 million commercial undertaking
by Kaua’i Nursery and Landscaping Inc. to beautify Ahukini Road and Kapule
Highway, the main roads leading from Lihu’e Airport.
Ako, a counselor and
recruiter with the federal Job Training Partnership Act program at the college,
helped find 40 program participants between ages 19 and 24 for training in
planting and propagation.
Participants also learn about perma-culture, an
alternative use of the land and resources, and how to till the soil to avoid
denuding the terrain, Figueroa said.
“We put up windbreaks, develop water
resources and plant fields and gardens in accordance with the land,” he said.
When students are finished with the training, they will be ready for the
marketplace, he said.
“You will definitely be employable if you train with
me,” said Figueroa.
Fruit, flowers and vegetables grown at the farm will be
sold from a kiosk at the facility.
The educational resource center will
consist of a gift shop stocked with local craft products.
In addition, a
small museum will be built to commemorate former residents of the old Puhi
Plantation Camp, which has been bulldozed and dismantled and on which the
40-acre farm currently sits.
The center also will feature a multi-media
center, which Isobe said will be used to help people find employment in
The farm also boasts a small business management
academy for technical assistance and training for new businesses. The academy
also will support promotion of products and services on the island, and will be
a meeting place for business training workshops, Isobe said.
also has involved the creation of a community garden within the farm, according
to Calvin Shirai of the Kaua’i Business Assistance Corp.
The program was
initially designed for senior citizens, who received training from the
University of Hawai’i Cooperative Extensive Service. The seniors grew the
produce as a way to augment their income.
Apparently because of growing
interest, the program has been expanded to accommodate people of all
“They will learn skills that will enable them to be more successful
gardeners,” Shirai said. They will be schooled in how to select the right
fertilizer, understanding the soil’s chemistry to enhance their ability to grow
fruit, flowers and produce, and how and where to sell them.
The impetus for
the Kaua’i project came from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who wanted to help rural
communities in the state, Isobe said.
In 1997, Lana’i was the first island
to receive federal grants for its project. Similar projects are in operation on
the Big Island, Maui and Moloka’i.
Kaua’i’s project started in 1998 with
$223,000 and operates on a $550,000 budget this year. Isobe said he will pursue
more funds next year because community interest in the project is on the
Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225)
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