After months of preparation, including selection of the 14 members of Class XVI, the Agricultural Leadership Program 2018-2019 has begun! Today, we all met in person for the first time in Hilo, Hawai’i. We were greeted by a beautiful spread of home-made, locally-sourced food prepared by class members Olelo Pa’a Ogawa and Julia Nemoto. (Wish I got a photo of it!) Our first guest speaker was Harry “Skip” Bittenbender, retired Extension Specialist of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), who provided intriguing information about agriculture’s history in Hawai’i.
Then, after an earthquake tremor felt across the island, which was a precursor to Kilauea’s eruption (another story in itself), we were joined by Scott Enright, Director of the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture and Chairman of the Board of Agriculture. He shared insights gained only by those working in the trenches of supporting and developing agriculture in Hawai’i from the policy perspective. His frankness and perseverance was admired greatly.
After lunch, Donna Ching, Agricultural Leadership Program’s former director for more than 25 years, led the class through “Birds and Butterflies,” an activity that explores strategy, competition, cooperation, and trust. Through the laughs, we learned about ourselves and each other.
Finally, it was time to go outside! (Keeping agriculturalists indoors all day is asking a lot, we know.) Professor Orlo Steele of the Hawai’i Community College took us to his experimental agroforestry site called Wai’alae Farm, just outside of Hilo. What a gorgeous area!
He told us that the area was formerly owned by Prince Lot (Kamehameha V) and then Hamakua Sugar. Today, it is owned by Orlo and partners and we see a variety of plants, including thriving native Hawaiian plants. He is growing a wide variety of native and introduced plants in what might be described as a layered forest. We were enthralled by his enthusiasm and potential for economic and environmental prosperity.
As we sauntered, we saw a vanilla orchid in blossom. Fortunately, we had a skilled vanilla pollinator in our group! Will demonstrated how it’s done, much to everyone’s amazement!
And we had fun with Mocha, the donkey, who seemed rather happy to meet Julia.
After a long and successful first day, we enjoyed a delicious meal among new friends. #agleadershiphawaii #alpclassXVI