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October 22, 2019

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Staff Training at the Farm!

Last week Pacific Quest staff members participated in a company-wide training focused on Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage.  It was a great opportunity for the team to come together on our new farm property and have time to connect while learning new skills and strategies to work with our students.

Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle teaching a workshop on “Rites of Passage in the Garden” highlighting the Polynesian voyage and canoe plants.

The training began with an introduction to the Four Shields and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics that’s utilized at Pacific Quest and an integral part of our program.  After the intro, the team divided up and spent the morning at various “stations” that focused on different learning objectives.  Staff members had the option of picking which workshop they wanted to participate in. Some of the options included: Meditation & Mandala workshop, Cordage and Ti lei making, medicine walk and planting skills, soil & compost, and hard project skills & “imagineering”. 

Field Manager Anthony Florig leads a workshop on “Tools for Relating with Tools”

One of the main goals was to emphasize the importance of how to incorporate these various lessons and projects into the daily routine with students. PQ Field Therapist Sarah Blechman, who helped organize and facilitate the training comments, “The whole day was so engaging! It was abundantly clear the facilitators were authentically passionate about the rich union and incredible effects of the interplay between horticulture, rites of passage and how to facilitate the two using the neurosequential model. My favorite part was when our program guides, managers and therapists all worked together to create our first garden bed in our ethnobotanical garden. Working on such a large project together felt like the whole community was working on a gift for our new farm.”

October 22, 2018

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September Harvest!

September is a great month in the organic garden.  PQ young adults at the Reeds Bay campus harvested 311 pounds of lovely edibles. We enjoyed fresh coconut, jackfruit, basil, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cilantro, cucumber, green beans, kale, pineapple, starfruit, papaya, and a variety of peppers. The students continued to stock their oversized pickling jars of green papaya with dill, and hot peppers with garlic and onion. A 20 pound harvest of fresh turmeric found us chopping, dehydrating and grating the anti inflammatory wonder root to create the healthy elixir called “golden milk.”

              

As we meander through the fall season, the days get a little shorter and the nights a little longer. Our gardens begin to show signs of slowing down. We look forward to planting keiki (seedlings) for winter crops over the coming weeks. Thanks again to everyone who works the gardens, wanders through the gardens, or wishes they could—all your lovely energy keeps the plants going. Mahalo.

July 9, 2018

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Eat Local Initiative Update!

By:  Annette Nickontro, Kitchen Supervisor

Jackfruit harvest at Reeds Bay

I’m so grateful for the grub we get to grow!  Summer is here and June’s harvest was no joke – 255 pounds worth of beautiful leafy greens, herbs and a huge chunk of weight coming from jackfruit and those white and yellow pineapples we’d been waiting for!  We cut, cooked and pureed 117 pounds from the harvest, some pineapples still waiting on the shelf to be eaten.

We tore into a 31 pound jackfruit and made vegan pulled pork twice!  Wellness coordinators rallied the students and guides for a second pickling class using excess green papayas and slightly young white pineapples. Students took advantage of fresh flavor by adding the likes of rosemary, dill, Hawaiian hot peppers, ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, basil, and habaneros.

To keep the garden bounty going, students and staff got their fingers in the soil and transplanted keiki tomato, basil, cilantro, cucumber, beans, egg plant, brussels sprouts, and at least 4 kinds of peppers.

Nice job everyone, looking forward to the outcome of July!

December 12, 2017

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Horticultural Therapy Training Day

By:  Isabel Holmes, Academic Coordinator

This month Pacific Quest will host two company wide Horticultural Therapy trainings.  Last week, over 40 staff members gathered at Reed’s Bay for the first training.  We were able to utilize the full campus and make the most of our garden experiences for staff and the land. The day included plenty of high-energy horticulture-themed games and scavenger hunts to help people across departments and programs get to know one another and get excited about the land.

Square foot gardening at Reeds Bay

Expert facilitators who have extensive experience in the field, led lessons on everything from how to care for a tree and how to treat a seed to the science of compost and a practical approach to the square-foot gardening technique. There were also quieter break-out sessions during which Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director, shared his expertise and experience with everyone and his team of clinicians worked closely with small groups on how to lead horticultural therapy activities and manage student needs.  Travis comments, “At PQ, we believe the greatest thing we can grow in a garden is a genuine curiosity about life, and a deeper awareness of ourselves and our relationship with the environment.  The beauty of this training is the opportunity for all direct care staff at PQ to come together to learn and practice experiential methods that integrate horticultural activity with the most current evidence based practices and research from the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). By participating in this training, therapists and guides join a growing movement in nature assisted therapies that goes beyond the hiking and survival approach of traditional wilderness therapy.”

New this year were the Learning Passports, a compilation of worksheets containing thoughtful questions about each lesson so that participants could take notes, cement their new knowledge, and begin to plan ways to take that knowledge and experience forward to our students. After a delicious lunch, the group rotated through regulating activity stations, learning to make cordage, practicing their drumming skills while learning about the regulating capabilities of bilateral movement, and learning about the Hawaiian concept of “Ha” meaning breath.

The experience culminated in a speed-dating style activity where participants prepared a brief pitch to convince a hesitant student to join them and learn something new about the garden. The group rotated round-robin style through two lines, counting how many colleagues they could convince to join their lesson!

The day concluded in handing out completion certificates, which everyone greatly appreciated. There were many thank-yous and positive responses to the organization and thoughtful content of the day, as well as much gratitude for our energetic facilitators! We look forward to the second training this week!

October 20, 2017

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Eat Local Initiative at PQ!

By: Dara Downs, Alumni & Family Services Liaison

Green beans thriving at Reeds Bay

In mid April of 2016 we started the Eat Local Initiative at our Young Adult Program at Reeds Bay.  This initiative was designed to help track the amount of produce being harvested, being cooked, as well as to help create motivation in the student milieu. It’s set up so that every time we grow and harvest food from our gardens, we weigh it, clean in, and document it. Then when it’s time for meal prep, we check to see if any of our freshly harvested produce can be cooked with that meal. If this is the case, then the food is used during that meal and documented. At the end of the month, based on how much home grown produce was cooked in our meals, the students are given a stipend to spend on specialty or rare items to use in the kitchen. In the past student have purchased cacao nibs, fruit leathers, passion fruit, dried spiced bananas, coconuts, ulu flower, and other island treats.

I work closely with Annette Nickontro, our Young Adult Kitchen Manager, who is really hands on in motivating students to use produce from the garden.  She oversees every part of the kitchen, working directly with students in creating weekly menus and recipes.  For many students, wandering the garden to collect herbs and produce is a whole new experience. Annette notes, “It’s been exciting to see the students pulling produce they grew from seeds and creating some amazing recipes for things like hot sauce, pesto, leafy green stir-fries, and kale chips!”  It’s a wonderful collaboration for both Annette and I to help students see their potential in gardening and cooking from something so small as a seed and feeding their fellow students.

Working together we found that since the Eat Local Initiative started, we have harvested 990 pounds of produce from our gardens, and of that, we have cooked 490 pounds of food!  With these numbers, we concluded that we are harvesting approximately 55 pounds of food per month and we are preparing about 27 pounds of food from our gardens per month.

Basil harvest for fresh pesto!

Once I found out how close we were to reaching 1000 pounds, I told our current students, and their immediate response was, “What?! Only 10 pounds away from 1000, we are so close, let’s keep eating what we grow! That’s a crazy amount of food.” Soon after, Annette and the students harvested 12 pounds of Basil and made a bunch of pesto to freeze for the winter! So we are happy to say that after a year and a half we have reached 1000 pounds of harvested produce from our gardens.  When asked to comment, PQ’s Horticultural Therapy, Travis Slagle, M.A. said, “The need for self-sufficiency is both practical and emotional.  The young people we serve benefit by knowing where their food comes from and taking an active role in sustaining their community.  At PQ, we believe the experience of self-sufficiency is transferable and relevant across the lifespan.”

With the Eat Local Initiative in place, we are focused on creating realistic goals and continuing to build a self sustaining agricultural model at PQ. We are excited to celebrate this accomplishment!

March 16, 2017

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Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ

By:  Dara Downs, Alumni and Family Services Liaison

Pacific Quest recently offered a Horticultural Therapy training for all staff members at our Young Adult campus at Reeds Bay.  This training was a unique experience where field managers came alongside field guides, and logistics staff worked side by side with nurses. Therapists and administrative staff traded their computers and phones for a trowel and some compost. In order to participate everyone left their job titles in the parking lot and put on their close toed shoes, long pants, and work gloves. They all knew, it was time to work in the garden!

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Back to Basics Gardening Stations

One of the main goals of this training was to assist all employees in developing a relationship with the garden, and increase individual’s confidence on the land.  In addition, the training was designed to help staff members understand the role of Horticultural Therapy (HT) and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) at PQ. In doing so, our Academic Coordinator was able to weave in parts of the HT curriculum into the training events to help set guides up with applicable lessons to use directly in the field.

The day was filled with numerous hands on activities and as every farmer knows, the best way to learn something is to get your hands dirty!  The group started off with a scavenger hunt in the ethnobotanical gardens at Reeds Bay called “The Village”. These gardens focus on growing traditional Hawaiian plants which are referred to as canoe plants. Everyone used the clues in the scavenger hunt to find specific plants. Upon finding each plant, participants followed a lesson from the curriculum based off the acronym CARE (Commitment, Awareness, Relationship/Responsibility, Effort).  They were able to practice caring for these sacred plants while also racing the clock!

After this competitive challenge, everyone engaged in “Back to Basics Gardening Stations” around campus. These stations focused on educating and providing hands on experiences in the following topics:

  • Compost and Soil Health
  • Tree Health and Bed Maintenance
  • Nursery and Transplanting
  • Square Foot Gardening

Presenters at each of these stations role modeled the three “R’s” of NMT: Regulate, Relate, and Reason. Each station started off with a breathing exercise, or something tactile and rhythmic, before jumping into relating to the environment, reasoning and teaching a lesson.

Following this, the group enjoyed lunch, and afterwards set up to process what they gained from the morning activities.  PQ’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, MA, led the group discussion on how to use these activities to engage students in meaningful conversations. He touched upon practicing these gardening techniques while developing

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Travis Slagle leading group lesson

relationships with students who may be challenging or disengaged. He comments, “It is essential that we are able to successfully translate skills of intuition and observation from a gardening experience to our daily lives.”  Staff members began sharing their stories and openly discussing techniques and experiences of successes they’ve had on the land. Participants shared ideas and methods that worked and helped to reach a wide variety of students.

After this open forum discussion, everyone broke into their groups again for afternoon stations which were focused on specific activities for assisting our students in the NMT model (regulate, relate and reason). The groups included, cordage making, weeding/bilateral movement, planting play, and wellness. These groups introduced themes of music and play into the garden, while also demonstrating tools like cordage making where you can bring the garden to a student. The wellness department also led a group that focused on EFT (a breathing/meditation technique), the bucket theory, and connecting plant health with gut health.

To end the day, everyone was invited to a garden party where music was played and pineapple paradise was saved from weeds and invasive species like african tulip trees.  Amanda Moreno, PQ Therapist, mentioned that, “It was a gift to spend a day in the garden connecting with my peers and collaborating with my colleagues. I learned a lot about gardening and can’t wait to use it with the students.”  An Adolescent Program Field Supervisor also commented, “One of my key takeaways from this training was the value of regulate, relate, and reason. I learned so many ways to engage in each of these in the field.”

February 13, 2017

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Oh Coconuts!

By Kate Goodwin, Young Adult Wellness Medical Supervisor

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut has many uses and health benefits

The tropical coconut is an incredible superfood with endless uses, especially in Polynesian cultures.  The Hawaiians used “Niu” or coconut for drink, food, thatching, hats, baskets, furniture, mats, cordage, clothing, charcoal, brooms, fans, ornaments, musical instruments, shampoo, containers, oil for fuel, light, ointments, soap and more.

Traditionally, a coconut palm was planted at a Hawaiian’s birth with a he’e (octopus) under it for fertilizer.  After the tree fruits at age seven, it will continue to fruit for 70-100 years to provide food for the individual or community.  Just one tree can produce 50 coconuts a year!

Coconut meat contains high quantities of lauric acid, a rare medium-chain saturated fatty acid.  Lauric acid is the reason coconut oil is so good for your skin, it can reduce bacterial and fungal infections while moisturizing.  Consuming the coconut meat provides B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Coconut water is an alkali producer in the digestive system and can help balance the body’s pH.  The water inside a coconut is sterile, yet packed with nutrients and electrolytes, it could even be used in a pinch for IV rehydration.

During a recent wellness training with Annie, the students learned how to pick a perfect coconut and “tap” into it to drink the water.  The coconuts were then cracked open to enjoy the delicious meat inside.  They also learned how to fashion a makeshift deodorant out of coconut oil as well as learning how the niu is culturally relevant to the Hawaiians.

How to select the perfect drinking coconut:

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut ready for drinking!

The perfect drinking coconut is full-sized, yet immature. Green and picked from the tree is ideal (yellow color and found on the ground is okay and still delicious).

Up to one quart of water is inside, but you should not hear “sloshing” when you shake it.  If the nut sloshes, it is no longer sterile and could cause some digestive irritation.

The yellow or browning coconut is mature when it drops to the ground. There is still some water in the cavity, which can be combined to make coconut milk. Coconut milk is a blend of coconut water and the scrapings of the coconut meat. This milk is a good source of iron and contains calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins.

Wahi ka niu, break open the coconut!

September 20, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide – Part III

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looked at the role itself and highlighted Nikki Robinson.  Part II introduced Master Guide Alyson Alde.  In this third and final entry we meet Nick Olson and learn about his focus within this role!

Meet Nick Olson

Master Guide Position: Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Nick working with a student on the land.

Nick hails from the high plains of Wyoming. There his wonderful parents worked diligently to instill in him a strong connection to a healthy diet, gardening and traveling. He studied International Studies at the University of Wyoming and in embracing his dream of vagabonding, traveled for two years following college. In the backwoods of Thailand with rambunctious kids, he realized that playing with youth in the dirt rules.

Nick started at Pacific Quest in March of 2015. He finds purpose in this job by helping students foster their own connection with the land, their food and their own self worth. He pulls from growing up in his tight knit community to help students build their sense of responsibility to their community, both here at Pacific Quest and back home. It’s a good day for Nick when his students find themselves deep in conversation, comfortably seated on the earth with their hands in the soil.  He comments, “What motivates me here at Pacific Quest  is when a student transforms a section of the garden and through their hard work they get invested and connected with the well-being of the land.”  As a master guide he hopes to help garden-shy guides feel more comfortable working on the land and getting their hands dirty.

In his off time he enjoys the quirkiness of Hilo, the comfort of his porch swing and the adventures with his community here on the Big Island.

May 10, 2016

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Transformation Tuesday: Parallel Processes in Gardening and Life

By: Anthony Florig, BSBA
Purchasing and Farm Manager

Almost all of the gardens at Pacific Quest are built from the ground up, and also down, by the hands and hearts of all the students and staff that find their way to the Big Island of Hawaii. I would like to share a story about the construction of these gardens, and the parallel process of the development of our students.

The garden camps have been a work in progress for over ten years, constantly changing and evolving and growing along with our student population. When I was a Guide for the Young Adult Program at Reed’s Bay, our Kuleana (Hawaiian for “personal responsibility”) student group was responsible for clearing an area that has come to be known as The Village, the property adjacent to the main Young Adult building in Hilo. It is a small outcropping overlooking Reed’s Bay, surrounded by rock-walled spring-fed brackish pools known as The Ice Ponds. These ponds connect to Reed’s Bay via a small channel, so you can enter for a refreshingly cold dip and then swim out to the bay where the ocean water is warmer.

pacificqueststaff

Anthony Florig, BSBA

The entire Village area used to be covered in cane grass, and was being overtaken by the coastal jungle. Now it is a beautifully landscaped garden park full of Hawaiian canoe plants like taro (kalo), purple sweet potato (uala), turmeric (olena), and banana (maia). To enter The Village you need to cross a small red wooden bridge that spans the first two ice ponds. You are met with various types and colors of Ti trees, with flowers and herbs planted in tree-trunk planters lining the path, leading to a dug-in stone fire circle. There are large garden beds with taro and purple sweet potatoes on either side of the clearing. Off the main path there is a rock-lined meditation labyrinth next to another ice pond. From the fire circle you can follow another path through more Ti trees and colorful relative Cordylines, with white pineapples growing along their base. From here you can continue on to the compost pile (or ki’pulu as we call it here in Hawaii) past various young fruit trees including mango, avocado, soursop, breadfruit (ulu), and plenty of ice cream and apple bananas. Or you can turn right and head past the Red Cuban bananas towards the final ice pond, which is surrounded by a canopy of thick Hau trees (ocean hibiscus). Over the course of the day the vibrant yellow flowers will turn orange and eventually fall into the pond, creating an idyllic scene and popular favorite spot for reflection.

About three years ago, there was one area underneath a large banyan tree that used to be nothing but vines. I remember a particularly rambunctious group of students who needed to get out some serious energy, both physically and mentally. They wanted a punching bag, so I agreed to make one with them. I got an old tarp and we began pulling all the vines off the hillside. For each bunch of vines we placed on the tarp we spoke about something that was bothering us, or that we were angry at. As students identified people or situations they were mad at, we helped identify the feelings and root causes of their pain. One student in particular who had been slow to open up really led this project, and she was able to speak about many of her resentments and what she called her enemies, and also how she wants to learn to forgive them and to let them go. We packed all the vines in the tarp, rolled it up, and tied it into a pretty solid punching bag. The students really enjoyed themselves getting out some more energy and aggression, but pulling the vines seemed to have already worked as a regulatory activity. In fact, underneath the vines we discovered a small hillside of some very rich soil, which was quite a pleasant surprise and grabbed everyone’s attention.

Today that hillside is now two terraced garden beds that wrap around the banyan tree and produce pounds and pounds of turmeric, taro and purple sweet potato. These beds were created and farmed the same way the vines were cleared from the hillside, by a group of staff and students talking about their problems and working them out on the land, over and over again. On top of the hill is a cleared circle of black cinder surrounded by a small rock wall, inside is a ring of coconut log seats. This is now a popular location for council and ceremony, or just a shady place to talk story surrounded by years of intention mixed with the beauty of Hawaiian tropical agriculture.

November 9, 2015

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Malama I Ka ‘Aina: A Community Service Project

By Lauren Meyer – Assistant Program Supervisor
pineappleThis past Friday, a few of our Malama students took a break from camp to set out into the community of Na’alehu with a purpose. With a trunk full of tools, and smiles on our faces, we took off down the road to a neighbor’s house. In this house lives two, once very active members of our small community here in Ka’u. The wife has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the husband, who has been giving his fullest self to take care of her, was recently diagnosed with cancer as well. The students weren’t able to shake the hands of these two, as they were out for the day, but our task was to give them something to smile about when they returned.
With shovels in hand, we stepped into their garden. We could see that they had put forth a lot of effort into beautifying their backyard, which was backed up to a golf course a few miles down the road from our base camp. We weren’t given much instruction besides “he really likes his pineapples.” We took a walk around, discussing what we could do to help. There were many overgrown areas which needed a lot of TLC to survive. We looked closer at the pineapples, and realized that they had produced many slips, which can be planted to make new pineapples.
We spent about an hour simply weeding the whole garden, then put up rock walls made of the Hawaiian volcanic lava rocks to stop the weeds from spreading as easily. A dragon fruit vine was starting to take over some of his smaller plants, so we transplanted that to a nearby wall to crawl on instead. Then we started our pineapple project.
Pineapples are great plants for the fact that they don’t need much attention – they can grow almost entirely on their own without the need for constant attention from the caretaker. This makes them a perfect plant for this couple, who have become quite preoccupied but still appreciate the beauty and reward from the garden. We harvested the slips and planted them in the ground, making a larger pineapple patch lining up against their beautiful plumeria trees that separates their yard from the golf course. We talked about how excited he was going to be when he came home to see this.
We worked ourselves into a hunger and decided to stop and eat the lunch that we had packed. Three malamas and two staff sat in a circle and expressed how grateful we were for our health, and the fact that our loved ones don’t have to go through this right now. We thought about the couple and the hardships they must be feeling right now. “I wonder if they have any kids” one of the students asked. “It feels great to get out and be a part of the community” another vocalized.
After lunch, we continued to work on the pineapple patch as well as some general maintenance and weeding of the area. It was soon time to head back into the vehicle and begin the quick drive back to camp. The ride back was quiet, it seems our hard work really wore us out. The students got back into camp with an hour to spare before it was time to start cooking dinner, and were quick to tell the other students in their ohana about their productive day.

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