ALP Class XV: Seminar 3, Day 3: Maui and Moloka‘i

Day three is always my favorite day of the seminars. By day three, everyone has caught up with each other. We’ve set a theme for our seminar. Our minds have settled into learning mode. Even though we started day three “late”, I was up early and ready to go.

We started the day by heading up country to Kula Agricultural Park to meet up with Agricultural Specialist Kenneth Yamamura. Kenneth told us about the park, which  covers 445 acres and has 31 lots. The purpose of the county’s agricultural park program is to promote diversified agriculture by providing long term leases at reasonable prices. The Kula Agricultural Park is a real gem, with good soils, water access and a range in elevation allowing crops like bananas, flowers, turf, dry land taro, onions and leafy greens to be grown in abundance. The relative closeness to Kahului allows farmers to both sell their crops in one of the island’s population centers and to export crops to other parts of the State and Country.

After leaving the Agricultural Park, we continued up…way up to 3,500 feet above sea level. We arrived at O’o farm mid-morning and were treated to a tour by farm manager, Richard Clark. O’o farm is an 8 acre farm specializing in farm to table food. When I say farm to table, I mean about 50′ since O’o does breakfast and lunch farm tours and has a FANTASTIC table. The farm also supplies Pacific’O restaurant, the Feast at LeLe and Aina Gourmet, all on Maui. Its a locavore’s dream.O’o Farm grows a wide variety of crops, which Richard said were chosen based on both growing conditions and by the requests of the chefs at the restaurants. Richard focused primarily on soil management, knowing that nourishing the soil biota helps produce healthy, high quality plants.

Once we left O’o Farm, we went back down to Kahului for a quick lunch before heading over to Moloka’i. Flying involved getting on a SMALL, 10 passenger plane. While I’ve been to Moloka’i several times, I’ve never flown from Maui. Flying along the south side of Moloka’i is fantastic because you really get a sense of how important both aquaculture and fishing were to the Hawaiians who lived there in the past and today. There are over 60 ponds along this shoreline, though many are in disrepair or are underwater. I also never realized the width of the shallow reef, which is approximately half a mile wide, making it ideal for fishing.

Once on Molokai, we were picked up by Class XIV alumni Kirby Kester and headed out to east Moloka’i’s Keawanui fishpond, where we were camping for the night. We set up camp and took a dip in the refreshingly cool spring on the property. While we had eaten fantastically so far, Taylor Kellerman deserves some serious credit for manning the grill and cooking up some tasty deer meat. Around this time our hosts, Walter and Loretta Ritte arrived to join us for dinner. If you’ve never heard of Walter…well…you’re probably not reading this blog.

Walter Ritte is known to many from his participation in the occupation of Kaho’olawe in the mid seventies. Since then, Walter has been involved in preserving Moloka’i’s lack of development opposing both the expansion of the airport and the harbor. But people are better defined by what they are for than what they are against. Walter told us what he was for, which was the maintence of a rural Moloka’i, respect for the native Hawaiian culture, sustainable agriculture and a lifestyle that protected the environment. “The environment has to come first” Walter told us, referring back to Hawaiian creation stories.

For me, the most important take away from our time with Walter was the importance of the government and community working together to craft rules that provide for and protect the population and environment. Laws simply won’t be followed if the community isn’t served. The community can’t be served without a strong legal structure.  Walter was also adamant; He only wanted to help us learn if our goal was to give back to the community. Fundamentally that is the primary function of those that want to be leaders in their fields or businesses: giving back to their community.

After Walter and Loretta left, we all settled down to sleep. I choose to sleep directly on the ground in my sleeping bag, which was a fantastic experience. The only difficulty was that the sky was so clear and the moon was so beautiful that I had a hard time closing my eyes. That is the kind of problem I like to have. Good night moon.

Thank you Kenneth for taking time out of your Saturday to tell us about the park.

Thank you Richard for taking the time to give us a great tour.

Thank you Walter and Loretta for allowing us to hear your thoughts and allowing us to camp at the fish pond.


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