Ag and environmental awareness ignites excitement in Wailua

WAILUA — It was hard to say who was more excited — Mary Pigao of the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Kaua‘i Office or Kalia, the chicken who laid an egg Thursday during the 16th Annual Ag and Environmental Awareness Day.

Hosted by the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in partnership with the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, about 600 fifth-grade students took advantage of the gathering of more than a dozen vendors representing various sectors of the agriculture and environmental industry.

Melissa McFerrin, the KCFB coordinator, said this year’s event featured several new presenters within the scope of eight different lecture presentations.

“Adam Asquith, who originally presented an alternative method of fueling an automobile using charcoal, changed this year, using Kukui nuts instead,” McFerrin said.

Asquith, who originally used a Ford Fiesta, this year had a Ford Ranger pickup whose bed was partially occupied by the burner which used shells from the Kukui nut as its power source.

“He actually drove up in the truck this morning,” said Larry Feinstein of the KCFB. “And he uses it to deliver as well.”

The Sustainable Farming lecture concentrated on vermiposting, the topic piquing the interest of the St. Catherine’s School garden coordinator.

Matt Stevenson, a familiar figure at the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair where he oversees the livestock show and auction, told the students a surefire way to tell the difference between goats and sheep, the students eager to try and outguess Stevenson.

“Look at their tails,” he said. “Goats’ tails go up; sheep’s tail hang down.”

Jimmy Trujillo of the Kaua‘i Beekeepers Association and the Kaua‘i Community College apiary program donned a beekeeper’s outfit and had a ready supply of bees and related items for students’ inspection and learning.

Rodney Haraguchi, a Hanalei taro farmer, is no stranger to the program and utilized student helpers from his classes to pound out batches of poi which other student helpers distributed as samples.

Elizabeth Ito of the Hawai‘i Tropical Fruit Growers headed up the Kaua‘i Grown presentation, which concentrated on “From Plant to Food” and had the students involved hands-on in some exotic fruit as well as Hawaiian staples such as ‘ulu, or breadfruit.

Other presentations included Invasive Species, who also had an exhibit table with samples of invasive plants and mammals, and Ag Biotech, featuring the talents of Scott McFarland, Dr. Cindy Goldstein and Kirby Keslee who transformed their group into a timeline of agricultural development.

“She laid an egg! She laid an egg,” Pigao said excitedly while noting the USDA celebrated its 150th anniversary on May 15.

Utilizing a freshly-laid egg by Kalia, one of three hens she owns, Pigao walked the students through the different areas of the USDA Farm Service Agency, using the egg to let the students see the difference between a fresh home-grown egg and a certified store-bought product.

Armed with questionnaires, students could “discover” answers at the 17 different stations. McFerrin said this was a great way to raise awareness of not only agriculture, but the environment to the students in a setting where they were immersed in agriculture at the Wailua Research Station.

She said the next big event is the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair, where the featured vegetable is the radish, seeds of which were being distributed to teachers as part of the learning packet.

A representative from Kaua‘i Family and Community Education said the featured item in the home show is citrus for people interested in entering the cooking and baking contests.

More details will be forthcoming on the fair, which runs in the latter part of August.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@


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