Saturdays in the garden

PUHI — Good things are growing at Kaua‘i Community College.

The Sustainable Gardening and Farming Training Course, in its fourth incarnation, will be meeting Saturday afternoons at the KCC farm in Puhi. The class, offered through KCC’s Office of Continuing Education, starts Oct. 8. The focus of the course is organic methods of food production, and is suited to the backyard grower and the agricultural entrepreneur, said Paul Massey, course coordinator and manager of Kaua‘i Community Seed Bank.

The program has shifted to Saturdays to allow those who work during the week to participate. The strong emphasis on sustainable and organic growing techniques may appeal to those who strive to grow healthy chemical-free food.

“The power of growing food in your backyard can’t be measured only by what winds up on your dinner table,” Massey said. “When we cultivate the soil with sustainable practices, and listen to what the plants have to tell us, it enriches every aspect of our lives.”

He said he considers himself as much a student in the class as he is a teacher — in large part due to the expertise of the rest of the instructional team.

The program’s garden manager, Kenneth Lindsey, is a successful market gardener with farms on Kaua‘i’s South and North shores.

Lindsey said he believes the success of the course reflects a growing awareness of sustainability issues on Kaua‘i, and is in the process of reformulating some of his own farming practices to work smarter – maintaining high crop yields while reducing his energy and material inputs.

Primary course lecturer John Parziale said he always ties the lessons back to the principles of permaculture and the wisdom of natural systems.

“It’s so important to tailor our approach to Kaua‘i’s unique physical and climactic conditions,” he said. “You can’t get this kind of instruction by just reading about it. We can help you avoid so many of the mistakes we’ve made along the way.”

Parziale is a successful organic grower in Moloa‘a’s unforgiving environment of for the past 15 years.

Jonathan Deenik, an O‘ahu-based soil-fertility specialist at the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture, said he makes the “complex topic” of soil management understandable and fun with his lively instruction.

Participants in the course will join a growing network via a collaborative wiki website, allowing past and present students the opportunity to share stories, swap seeds, and access class notes and literature.

The course’s topics include project planning, site assessment and preparation, propagation and planting, irrigation, soil building, weed and pest management, and seed saving.

A combination of classroom and field instruction instills a sense of confidence in the new grower and provides the more seasoned gardeners a chance to discuss improvements to their technique, according to Massey.

Sessions will be Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m. in the Electronics Building, Room 114 and at the campus gardens. Four hours of additional fieldwork per week will be required to qualify for a certificate of completion.

Registration fee is $275, and tuition assistance is available for those in need. Enrollment is limited to 36 students. Call OCET at 245-8318 to register.

Contact Massey at pdmassey@hawaii.edu or 652-7898 for information.

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