homepage logo

Lahainaluna shaping future farmers

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Nov 9, 2017

From left, Lahainaluna High School FFA members M’Chelle Aguinaldo, 12th grade; Kieran Groh, 12th grade; Sabrina Holcom, tenth grade; Nate Beard, 12th grade; and Emily Lorenz-Bradley, 11th grade, work at the chapter’s recent Pumpkin Patch fundraiser. Other FFA members not pictured are senior Fernando Cedillo, junior Eunice Hanaya V. Gaper, senior Valeria Rodrigues and junior Lexa Ora‘a. Keith Ideoka is the FFA advisor.

LAHAINA – M’Chelle Aguinaldo, a senior at Lahainaluna High School, was elected and is serving as secretary of the Hawaii Chapter of Future Farmers of America (FFA) for 2017-18. A student-led national organization, FFA is committed to fostering self-directed learning through projects that increase awareness of the global importance of agriculture.

They encourage wise management of economic, environmental and human resources in the community and promote teamwork, citizenship and volunteerism. All 50 states and two U.S. territories are currently chartered members of the national FFA organization, which teaches that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.

“The Lahainaluna High School Agriculture Program’s mission is to help our community grow the next generation of young farmers,” Aguinaldo said. “As this year’s FFA state secretary, I travel to state and national FFA meetings and assist in work-related activites at Lahainaluna. I also support Maui’s school garden programs with plant donations and other volunteer work.”

Aguinaldo continued, “At Lahainaluna we see a thriving and sustainable Hawaii. We maintain a pono lifestyle by having aloha for all and by respecting the culture. We need the next generations of farmers. We also need to help drive Hawaii in the direction of becoming sustainable and help keep produce here. We’re working for a better future for Hawaii’s youth and economy.”

The Lahainaluna High School Agriculture Program offers a variety of classes. Their facility consists of two classrooms, an ag shop, a greenhouse, multiple small and large fields, a plant nursery and a Hawaiian garden.

“In our program, we have two teachers, Nathan Pallett and our Advisor Keith Ideoka, who teach agricultural skills and keep our facility productive and well-maintained,” Aguinaldo noted. “The teachers stress the importance of safe working habits, teamwork and always growing and selling fresh, high-quality produce.”

Lahainaluna’s program electives include Natural Resources Pathway Core, Natural Resources Productions 1 and 2, and Plant Systems 1 and 2. Each helps students develop an appreciation for a farming career and other agriculture-related fields such as future biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs.

“The program places a high emphasis on giving students as many visual and hands-on learning experiences as possible,” said Aguinaldo, who believes these ag and natural resource classes build character, trust, independence and responsibility.

Throughout the school year, the students plant multiple crops. They grow, harvest and then sell to the community. The crops consist of sweet corn, carrots, green onions, beets, radishes, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, pumpkins, pac-kai choy, kale, peas, eggplant, taro and sunflowers.

“We try to grow unique varieties of these crops that appeal to our customers’ needs and taste,” said Aguinaldo. “We sell our produce to the community and at local farmers’ markets, to our school staff, to other Lahaina schools and to local businesses such as Takamiya Market, Ah Fook’s, Choice Health Bar in Lahaina, and Lappert’s on Front Street. We also give back to our community by providing donations of produce and plants to school gardens, homeless shelters, senior housing complexes and the Maui Food Bank.”

Lahainaluna’s FFA program just held its first annual Pumpkin Patch at their ag facility. Senior Nate Beard, president of the Lahainaluna Chapter, took the initiative to start the first pumpkin patch on the West Side.

“This was possible with the generous help from Family and Friends of Agriculture and Aloun Farms on Oahu,” Aguinaldo reported. “Aloun Farms donated over 400 pumpkins in different sizes and colors along with some decorative corn. Family and Friends of Agriculture supported the event. They also paid for the shipping and handling, with all profits made from selling the pumpkins going towards the FFA program.”

Aguinaldo and the FFA students send thanks to the Family and Friends of Agriculture along with Aloun Farms for helping to make their first fundraiser a success. The benefit will help support the FFA members at Lahainaluna and pay for future field trips, travel to state conventions and other activities and expenses.

“We’d also like to thank Monsanto for paying for the radio advertisement and the newspaper ads,” she said, “as well as many other supporters of agriculture in Hawaii, such as the Maui County Farm Bureau and Chef Nabavi, who believe in Hawaii’s future in agriculture.”