WHEA Students Learn and Present at Ag Forum
by Kayli, Dakotah, Lauren
West Hawaii Explorations Academy (WHEA) was recently honored by being the first school ever to participate in the State of Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Skill Panel Forum. The forum was sponsored by the Workforce Development Council and took place on March 6th at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.
The goal of the forum was to discuss island sustainability and encourage a progressive agriculture industry. Attendees of the event included farmers, state representatives, business leaders, private citizens and WHEA students & teachers, .
The forum’s five panel discussions were Innovations & Sustainability, Education & Training, Infrastructure, Food Distribution and Recruitment & Retention. Topics discussed during the forum included, farmer’s markets, retention of local farmers, twenty year plans, a movement called “Plants not Lawns,” school lunches and youth education.
During lunch, WHEA Middle School students and “Eat Local” teacher Joel Kriner shared a table display with forum attendees to showcase their year projects and school gardens. In the main convention hall, WHEA High School students worked with garden teacher Ben Duke and presented a formal powerpoint presentation sharing class experiments and data.
West Hawaii Ag Forum
By Natalie Weatherford
On March 6th I went to the West Hawaii Ag Forum. I went to the Innovation and Sustainability panel for two hours and took notes. In the panel, the main concern was how the next generation was going to continue the agriculture life that some people live today such as coffee farmers, avocado farmers and farmers that grow their own garden and sustain themselves. It was discussed how this older generation was going to teach the importance of growing local food and selling and living off of home grown food to the next younger and following generations after. People in the room voiced concerns that the next generation was not going to be interested in agriculture. It was agreed that to elementary students should start learning about the importance of agriculture, sustainability and healthier living. Participating in this panel was an educational experience that I will never forget and an opportunity to start making a change.
Innovations and Sustainability Conference
By Danielle Hathaway
In the morning, during the conference part of the day, I went to the Innovations and Sustainability panel. There, everyone introduced themselves and I found myself surrounded by a wide range of people with many different ideas and opinions. Many of the participants in this discussion found that the island was really lacking practice of sustainability. There was a large agreement that the island alone had sustained thousands of people before, it still could, yet is not and something in that picture is wrong. The major problem that everyone had come to a conclusion to was that organic food from a sustainable farm is not supported by the government through subsidies. On the whole the government supports GMO conventionally grown cheap food. And the outcome is always the cheaper The group then decided that the best way of implementing sustainability was through education in schools. It was agreed that schools should have gardens. When children are younger they could plant in it, grow food, and harvest food and when the children grow older they would be able to also prepare the food to share.
By Kyle Kirk
I attended the infrastructure panel and learned about the current state of labor in agriculture on the Big Island. There are not enough workers, and hiring them is a challenge because teaching them takes time, some don’t learn as fast and might not do it correctly. So if farming was taught in school they would already learn it and know what to do when its time if they get in that profession. There are also a lot of people that aren’t close to the farms that want to work but there’s no transportation for them.
On March 6th a group of kids from WHEA including me went to an Agriculture Forum meeting that was held at the King Kam Hotel. When we arrived, there were rooms filled with many different types of farmers and agriculture workers that were there to share information and provide input on issues that could affect them. The panel that Catherine and I went to was called “Workers and Retention.” It was about different labor laws and how hard it is to find experienced that will stay. I learned that it’s hard to retain workers if you own a farm because picking is seasonal so they might get a lower pay the rest of the season. I learned a lot of useful information about what is wrong with labor laws and the difficulty farmers have of finding workers and retaining them.
The whole day was a great experience and I had fun. I would like to learn more about agriculture since it is such a broad subject with interesting information
At the Ag Forum, the WHEA students were split up into small groups and went to different conference rooms. In each room, discussions took place about different issues related to agriculture in West Hawaii. In the seminar that I attended, the speakers were talking about the importance of education and training. This discussion helped me to see that education and training are important for my generation so that we can learn how to provide for future generations. At lunch time the WHEA students spoke about agricultural projects that they were working on at school. I presented my Cold Ag project to about two hundred people that were there.