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February 3, 2020

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New Video Highlights Training

An important aspect of the PQ model is staff development and the opportunity to learn and grow alongside our students. 

Staff members recently 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.

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, MSSW, 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.”

Many thanks to Nick Vejvoda, Adolescent Field Manager, who made this video!

WATCH the video here!

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.

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!

June 9, 2017

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Pacific Quest to Donate a Portion of Profits to PQ Foundation

We are pleased to announce that Pacific Quest will now be donating a minimum of 1% of our profits annually to the Pacific Quest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to support the Hawaii County community and its existing non-profit organizations.

Pacific Quest was founded in 2004 and over the years we have developed relationships with more than 60 different local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, its employees and its clients. With the generous support and donations from alumni, families, community members and businesses, we are excited to continue our tradition of stewardship within the Big Island community.Pacific Quest Announces Formation of Pacific Quest Foundation

Martha Bouchard, PQ Foundation Director, reflected on this decision to donate profits to the foundation, “It is essential to our mission to both be sustainable and in right relationship with the community in which we work and in which Pacific Quest has built such life changing programming for students. This has to go beyond the community service that our staff and students do. For us, being able to increase our capacity to give back to the island by helping to fund organizations that are the heart and soul of our local communities is a direct reflection of that commitment.” Donations to the foundation help to fund the organizations that sustain our island’s diverse communities, which benefit both residents and visitors alike.

Pacific Quest Foundation will begin accepting applications in Fall 2017. Requests will be considered from Hawaii Island based non-profit organizations in four general categories, including:

  • community or public service
  • environmental issues
  • health and education
  • youth and senior citizens

For more information on how to help support the Pacific Quest Foundation, please visit:

http://pqfoundation.org/donate-now/

April 17, 2017

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PQ Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit

By: Katie Strong, Program Guide

“Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!” That’s Hawaiʻian for “love the land, love the ocean.” We take these phrases to heart at Pacific Quest. As a horticultural therapy program, we’re well known for caring for the land, but we’re also really into the ocean. PQ students learn about the importance of caring for our ocean during weekly water outings and beach cleanups and frequent swims in Reeds Bay. And we recently upped our marine stewardship game by installing two Beach Clean Up Stations, with two more on the way!

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean Up

We installed one of the Stations at our Reeds Bay campus and another at Richardson Beach. The other two Stations will soon be installed at Carlsmith Beach Park. These Stations will enable both Hilo beachgoers and PQ students to divert 80,000 pieces of trash a year from our ocean and waterways, improving the lives of sea and land creatures, including humans. Beach Clean Up Stations are permanently mounted wooden boxes containing repurposed, reusable bags for collecting beach trash. Each Station features children’s marine-themed art and signage showing how to use the Station, the impact of marine debris and how to reduce trash.

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean UpPQ students will use the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations during their beach cleanup outings, and the Reeds Bay Station several times a week. Students will use these Stations to pick up 26,000 pieces of trash a year. We expect that the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations will educate 3,240 beachgoers a year about the harm human-generated trash causes to sea and land creatures and teach them how to reduce this waste. Each year, these Stations will enable 1,080 beachgoers to remove 54,000 pieces of trash – which is definitely “Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!”

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Pacific Quest built and installed these Beach Clean Up Stations in partnership with All One Ocean and the County of Hawaii. All One Ocean, a local nonprofit, has installed 37 Beach Clean Up Stations and four School Clean Up Stations, in Hawaii, California, Iowa and Alabama.

September 22, 2016

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Pacific Quest Announces Formation of PQ Foundation!

By: Sharon Findlay
Admissions and Communications Manager

Pacific Quest is pleased to announce the formation of the Pacific Quest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to supporting the Hawaii County community and its existing non-profit organizations.

“After years of working in and contributing to the Hawai’i Island community, we are excited to formalize our efforts and reach the broader community. We can now include PQ alumni families in our efforts to give back by raising awareness and funding for local community programming,” says Suzanne McKinney, Vice President of the PQ Foundation.

Founded in 2004, Pacific Quest works with adolescents and young adults in an outdoor, residential setting on the Big Island of Hawaii. During their stay, our clients develop an intimate relationship with Hawaii and it’s diverse communities as they work outdoors cultivating the land, exploring the island’s natural wonders, and participating in community service projects or events.

Pacific Quest Announces Formation of Pacific Quest Foundation

Over the years, Pacific Quest has developed relationships with and supported over 60 different local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, its employees and its clients. We have created the Pacific Quest Foundation to continue our tradition of stewardship within the Big Island community.

The Pacific Quest Foundation’s mission is to contribute to existing 501(c)(3) organizations on Hawaii Island that steward a healthy island community. Alumni and supporters of Pacific Quest are encouraged to give back to the Big Island through the Pacific Quest Foundation. Pacific Quest underwrites the Foundation’s leadership and administrative costs.

September 5, 2016

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PQ Presents at Wilderness Therapy Symposium

Pacific Quest’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, M.A. recently co-presented with Darcy Ottey, M.A. at the 2016 Wilderness Therapy Symposium in Park City, Utah.  The three hour experiential workshop focused on the ecological perspective of rites of passage and provided conference attendees hands on activities to activate the senses and deepen their understanding of the integration of rites of passage and nature assisted therapy.  Travis comments, “I believe this is the next wave of innovation in wilderness therapy.  The challenge of the future isn’t going to be climbing a mountain, or hiking in the desert, it’s helping young people learn how to live a more sustainable life.”

Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director

Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director

This breakout session brought together clinicians and direct care staff from across the country and included a PQ alumni, now finishing her last semester of college. Together, Travis and the alumni led the audience in a lesson on transplanting; offering participants a tangible experience to reflect on the biological process of stress and adaptation in nature and how to use this as a metaphor for the life transitions that clients experience in treatment and beyond. Participants commented that the highlight of the workshop was hearing the PQ alumni talk about her journey toward self-acceptance and describe the role that working in a garden played in overcoming the debilitating effects of depression.  The alumni commented, “Two years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be here today planting flowers!”

As the presentation concluded, audience members had the opportunity to reflect on their experience.  Participants reported that they felt “deeply moved,” “inspired,” and “hopeful” after the workshop.  As Travis states,”We are promoting a paradigm shift in wilderness therapy, and the greatest reward in my work is seeing the change that our alumni students are bringing to the world, and the love and hope they bring to their families!”

To learn more about Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage at Pacific Quest, please visit the following links:

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.

April 22, 2016

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In Celebration of Earth Day: Nurture through Nature

By: Danielle Zandbergen, MA
Therapist

In celebration of Earth Day, I thought it fitting to write about nature and how it has proven to be one of the most important aspects within the human condition. Nature has been shown to inherently support those struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, stress, low self-esteem, obesity, substance abuse and addiction, social insecurity, obsessive-compulsive behaviors (many of which can be technology or materialistic), physical-verbal-emotional violence, lack of empathy or compassion…the list goes on. A great amount of children and adults alike struggle with a variety of pathologies and nature continues to prove to be an essential, positive, and healthy intervention for many, if not all individuals. It is surprising that more therapeutic programs, treatment interventions, or even academic settings haven’t integrated the exploration of nature.

Let’s face it – humans have a damaged relationship with nature and while many areas of the world are running out of natural resources that are absolutely essential to our very livelihood (most particularly water and food sources), we continue to be blinded by material goods that do not provide the same amount of happiness, or sustenance, as nature does. The very medicines we typically use are derived from a variety of herbs, spices, roots, and leaves from many kinds of plants and flora. Lavender cannot only be used for its scent but can also be used as an antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic substance for a variety of ailments such as acne or skin irritation, as well as a natural soothing herb to help alleviate stress, cough and cold symptoms. Basil, most commonly known for cooking, can also be used for headaches, stings and bites, ear infections and help with stress reduction. Lemon balm alleviates anxiety, insomnia, upset stomach, and even helps with cold sores. Rosemary is sometimes used to support memory and focus, and may even elevate one’s mood. If one looks closely, medicine can literally be found in our backyards!

PQ_therapist

Danielle Zandbergen, MA

When people engage in the outdoors, a natural sense of wonder and awe opens up a heightened awareness of connection. It rekindles a sense of belonging to the natural world that one cannot experience elsewhere. Some studies have shown that students who often feel fatigue, anxiety and stress have shown an overall sense of restoration both psychologically and physiologically after they take a walk in the woods or a nearby park. In contrast, walking through a crowded shopping mall or around tall buildings with little to no greenery has actually been shown to lower overall self-esteem and increase psychological stress.

Horticultural therapy has been shown to be extremely effective in stress management, treating alcohol and substance abuse, enhancing self-esteem, help elderly individuals with feelings of social isolation, and curtailing burnout experienced by healthcare providers. On top of the psychological support, horticultural therapy decreases one’s dependence on chemically treated food products and increases the inclination to grow fruits and vegetables in our very own garden. In a book titled, Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist, quotes “If you want to enhance self-concept, self-esteem, and self-confidence, facilitate treatment of the mentally ill, or improve family relationships, employing nature is a potent therapeutic intervention. Nature-guided therapy is about putting these demonstrated benefits into therapeutic practice, in ways that will most enhance the achievement of the person’s therapeutic goal.”

So what are you waiting for? Are you feeling stressed, anxious or frustrated? Do you feel like you need a “reset” button? Are you having a hard time concentrating? Take a walk in a nearby park. Embark on an adventure on a weekend camping trip instead of going shopping for things you probably don’t need. Save some money and grow your own natural and organic food, and most of all, take advantage of the cheapest medicine out there…nature! Happy Earth Day!

“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.”
– E.O. Wilson

 

April 13, 2016

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Gardening in LA: Alumni find solace and camaraderie in service project

By: Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC
Alumni and Family Services Director

Approaching Wattles Farm from Hollywood Boulevard is surreal.  A short walk from the iconic walk of fame in the heart of Hollywood, one navigates speeding sports cars, stoplights (which apparently aren’t enforced), and screaming police sirens to find the gate encircling the margins of Wattles Farm.  After traversing an ancient avocado grove, one emerges in the 4.2 acre organic garden of eden- a setting that couldn’t be more dichotomous from the immediate surroundings of bustling Hollywood.

The garden was reminiscent of Pacific Quest- meandering paths lined with rocks and downed limbs, tropical fruits draping from tree branches, and luscious garden beds overflowing with lettuce and kalWattles Farm Alumni Evente.  Travis Slagle and I felt at peace as we toured the garden, taking time to absorb every element of the Wattles oasis.  We basked in the familiarity of the natural landscape and reprieve from the urban gridlock surrounding us.

Head Gardenmaster for 23+ years, Toby Leaman, introduced Travis and I to the array of work needed to maintain Wattles garden.  She identified specific areas that our Pacific Quest alumni group could complete during our community service garden project the following day.  Travis observed closely as Toby showed him where the invasive onion grass was overtaking the roses and geranium, as well as where the rock wall was eroding.  While many people may view the immense undertaking Toby outlined as a nuisance, Travis and Toby see potential.  Being gardeners in their heart and healers/role models for youth, the garden is a means to connecting with something greater – a deeper sense of self and greater connection with community.  Excitement grew as we refined our plans for our project the following day.

Our alumni group dug into our community service project at 10 AM.  Smiles, laughs, and reminiscing about funny stories from Hawaii ensued, while the group maintained diligence and attention to eradicating the onion grass. The group overhauled the rose and geranium beds, creating a discernable difference.  Apparently that project wasn’t enough, as the group then devoured the opportunity to weed a long pathway through the avocado orchard.   Toby exclaimed what an amazing group of volunteers we were, highlighting our attention to detail and positive attitudes.

AJandTravisOver a nutritious lunch and closing circle, the group discussed some observations throughout the day.  Many noted “being in the present” and “sharing a common goal,” as being significant aspects of the project. Others shared a sense of fun, camaraderie, peacefulness, and giving back.  Each of these observations speaks to the power of gardening and intention- when we set aside computers and phones, carve out a shared gardening project, we find meaning.  The group observed that the experience was far from insignificant, but rather served as an amazing conduit for connection and leaving a legacy for others in the future.  It was certainly a memorable Sunday!

I want to share a huge THANK YOU to Toby Leaman for being such a warm host and project leader.  I also want to thank the Pacific Quest alumni for their dedication to others and desire to continue to deepen their self awareness. And lastly I want to thank the entire community for maintaining Wattles Farm for others to enjoy.  Community gardens are a growing movement, and one can see layers of significance far greater than just providing salad greens.

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