PUHI — Kauai Community College’s Ueli Muller watched as Kauai Beer Company Chef Joe Fox loaded bag after bag of fresh greens into his rolling ice cooler Saturday at the Kauai Community Market.
“You’re going to have to come back another time,” said Muller, manager of the KCC aquaponics program. “Chef Joe pretty much wiped out a lot of my varieties.”
Coinciding with National Farmers Market Week, KCC announced that since 2013, the college has sold more than $25,000 of produce and honey cultivated in the aquaponics and apiary facilities through the Kauai Community Market.
“I commend Ueli Muller, his staff, and members of the Apiary Program for their diligent efforts which have brought us to this impressive level,” said Helen Cox, Kauai Community College chancellor. “We are proud of our programs, and weekly presence at the Kauai Community Market.”
The market, a partnership between the Kauai County Farm Bureau and KCC, is held on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the KCC parking lot. It regularly attracts visitors from other islands, states and countries who join residents of all ages from all around the island. The market has also earned Best Farmers Market votes each year since 2012 and has become recognized as a gathering place where healthy, freshly produced food is abundant.
“Backyard farming has indeed a place in agriculture sustainability,” said Calvin Shirai, director of the KCC Office of Continuing Education and Training, who also offers aquaculture and apiary classes.
Over the years, Muller said, the aquaponics facility has successfully grown and sold 10 different types of lettuces, including Butterhead and Oak Leaf as well as different types of romaine and summer crisp varieties. The facility has also produced mizuna, a type of mustard, mint, watercress, arugula, cilantro, napa cabbage, red cabbage, different varieties of beets, fennel, different types of basil, and tatsoi.
The honey comes straight from the college’s beehives and varies in rich hues and flavors.
Income from the sales of the products are used to purchase supplies for both the aquaponics and apiary programs.
“Thanks to all my team members and volunteers who have assisted me over the years and put in so much work and dedication to the cause,” Muller said.
Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines traditional aquaculture, or the raising of aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks, with hydroponics, of the cultivating of plants in water, in a symbiotic environment. Aquaponics systems vary in size from small indoor or outdoor units to large commercial units.
Honey-producing bees thrive, and queen-rearing research and cultivation take place in the KCC apiary, which is under the leadership of Georgeanne Purvinis, Francis Takahashi Jr., James Trujillo, Robert Alan Spencer and staff.
With the growing global concern over the decline of bee populations, the proactive work being done at KCC is immediate and imperative, said the apiary staff.
“Kauai Community College is a place where we are promoting a lifestyle that is sustainable, where growing our own food is a way of life,” Cox said. “We support agriculture as a viable industry for Kauai, and members of the community who love to garden and want to grow their own food.”