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Community effort restoring Lahainaluna’s ag program

By Staff | May 5, 2011

Volunteers have cleared a five-acre area near the Lahainaluna High School Band Room to prepare for the school’s agricultural future.

LAHAINA — In a project that so represents the team spirit of the West Side community — as well as the nurturing nature of the malama pono philosophy of the Aloha State in general — the Lahainaluna High School Agricultural Department has reinvigorated its deep-rooted and endearing program to farm the land of the historic campus.

The school has long been recognized for its unique relationship intertwining boarding students and day students alike with the rich culture that began in 1831.

To this day, Lahainaluna has striven to nurture a lasting, perpetual relationship with the acreage at the foothills of Pu’u Pa’u Pa’u that make up the unique school grounds.

Beginning some 60 years ago in the tenure of Ted Kawamura as the leader of the Agricultural Department, the Lahainaluna effort to till the soil, farm the land and tend to livestock and dairy production has encouraged a sincere appreciation and attention of our natural environment within the students and staff there.

Now, in moving into the new millennium, it is Keith Ideoka — a Lahainaluna graduate and former student of Kawamura — who is the tillerman for the ag program at the oldest public school west of the Rockies.

For 21 years, Ideoka has been the mentor of the cause to deepen the roots of the Lahainaluna farm, and of the student body, into the rich, red West Maui soil.

Most recently, Ideoka led an effort to renew the ag program at Lahainaluna brought to fruition in large part by Kawamura’s leadership in years gone by. As the farm fields on and around the campus were lost to attrition and athletic facilities, the program had faltered at the turn of the century.

But Ideoka, in conjunction with Community Work Day Program, set to turn things around.

In a five-acre area adjacent to the Band Room at the Kaanapali side of the campus, Ideoka enlisted the aid of Hawaiian Dredging to clear the overgrown land of trees, brush and invasive weeds.

The well-entrenched local company donated the use of its heavy equipment and operators in the week-long toil to clear and grub the land for the school’s agricultural future.

“They (Hawaiian Dredging) transformed the area into usable land before the scheduled Community Work Day,” explained Ideoka last week.

In between the work day and the Hawaiian Dredging work, Lahainaluna loyalist Lanny Tihada brought Kaanapali Land Management into the effort to plow and till the soil with their equipment. Next, Community Work Day’s Matt Lane organized the effort further to complete the revitalization.

According to Ideoka, both Hawaiian Dredging and Kaanapali Land Management continued their heavy equipment work while ACE Hardware employees, Lahainaluna Assistant Farm Foreman Alan Yamamoto, current students, alumni, community volunteers and the Job Corps — over 100 in all — prepared the soil.

“Chamberlain Excavation trucked in compost, West Maui Watershed, Napili Kai Resort and Hoolawa Farms brought in native plants, while the County of Maui Water Department lent their expertise to the project,” he said.

“Then Cilantro Restaurant, Lulu’s, Paradise Crepes and Tropic Water brought in food and refreshments for all, and Kimokeo Kapahulehua blessed the food and the project.”

Along with teachers Carol Rosetta and Steve Cornel, Ideoka wants to boost up the ag program and get it to where it was before.

“We want to provide fresh produce to the community like before, when we had sweet corn, watermelon, sweet onions and more. We will plant native plants and a Hawaiian garden, and start a fruit tree orchard with citrus, avocado and guava, as well as wet and dry land taro. We also want to advance the aquaculture and aquaponics here with tilapia, catfish and ornamental fish like koi. Our goal is to focus on the aquaponics to recycle the fish wastewater into the taro lohi to use the nutrients and recycle the water,” Ideoka said.

“This was really an inspirational effort. It was terrific timing in many ways to get so much help and so many donations to the project. Things are still coming in, and we’re having another Community Work Day on May 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please call 385-0100 for more information.”