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September 25, 2009

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Shipman’s beach!

For this outing we drove north to keaau. On the journey we talked about Hawaiian native plants in the national park as we drove through, about the volcanic activity at Halema’uma’u and Pu’u O’o, the legend of Ohia and Lehua and a brief history of sugar in Hawaii, and its influence on the town of Keaau. We took a bathroom break in Keaau at Shipman’s park before heading to the trailhead.

On the hike we identified the autograph tree, the hau, banyons, and the group favorite, the strawberry guava. We talked about the old road we were walking on, the kings trail, evidence of old taro beds we saw, and an old world war two bunker that we found near the beach. When we arrived at Haena, we had the privilege to see a giant green sea turtle, beached for an afternoon in the sun; we talked about the predatory threats to the creature (mostly human). We also were able to dispel the myth that the endangered Nene can not fly as two passed overhead. We talked briefly over lunch about how it would feel to be told you had to leave your home, as in the case of when the lands of Keaau were sold to Shipman, or perhaps in the case of lava approaching your village.

After lunch we swam and explored the area where the fresh water springs merge with the ocean. On the hike back the group collected many guavas for the ohana. It was a great hike and a great outing all in all. The group really came together in the last stretch when a student expressed wanting to get back to make an awesome dinner for everyone. All were able to pick up the pace and check almost twenty minutes off our hike time on the way in.

September 22, 2009

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P-Patch YOUTH Gardening Program

Youth in the Garden - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Community gardens are gaining attention nation wide.  As highlighted in a blog posting on the new garden at the white house, gardening plays a unique role in building community.  While many community gardens draw interest from adult enthusiasts, attention to the youth is sometimes lacking. Schools and programs are springing up around the country incorporating youth into the process (and thus the community!).  Connecting the youth in the garden bodes well for community development and personal development, providing youth a sense of belonging.

The P-Patch YOUTH Gardening Program in Seattle is one example. They are “seeding the next generation of organic gardeners!” to quote their website (Good pun).  The program identifies social and environmental aspects of their objective, noting gardening as a way of weaving youth into the fabric of the community.  The program targets youth of diverse economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds, in its drive to keep the youth active in choosing healthy lifestyles for themselves and the environment.

Youth are faced with many choices when the bell rings at the end of a school day.  While some are pulled toward healthy after school activities, others are seduced by a multitude of unhealthy choices.  This is where ENGAGING the youth is important.  Whether it be after school sports, interesting clubs, or ORGANIC GARDENING, engaging their curious minds is crucial.

Programs such as these inspire me to dream of the possibilities that could arise from motivated PQ alumni.  Student’s at PQ hone gardening skills and education around planting and harvesting veggies.  Further, PQ students also gain a sense of belonging through their connection with the land and their peers.  These students could go on to be stewards of community gardening programs, helping to seed their own generation of organic farmers.   Perhaps they already are and I am unaware of it.

Check out other YOUTH community garden projects that I found interesting:

Gardening the Community, Springfield MA

Youth Changing the World, Houston TX

CSC, Corvallis OR

September 8, 2009

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Tropical seeds bought locally

Critical to success in organic gardening is seed selection.  While tropical climates are generally conducive to many plant varieties, seeds well adapted to the tropical climate thrive better. Pacific Quest’s garden specialist Scott Ricci found a local farmer/seed distributor with twelve years experience of growing on the Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Brannen, owner and operator of Kilohana Farm Seed Company, guided Scott on a personal tour of his farm. Tom pointed out garden beds for the seeds he vends, highlighting the fact that he only sells seeds he has tested for at least two years.  Tom was excited to share that all of his seeds come from Thailand, a climate that parallels Hawaii’s in many ways.

Scott purchased a range of seed varieties including tomatoes, radishes, watermelon, squash, pumpkins, cabbages, beans, broccoli, cauliflower and hot peppers!  Tom also mentioned giving Scott various Thai plant starts such as green papaya and ginger. Pacific Quest recognizes the importance of buying locally.  This not only allows us to stimulate the local economy, but it helps strengthen the relationships within the island community.  Perhaps these seeds are a metaphor for the bonds that we are germanating with local farmers and vendors.  As we continue to nurture our plant seedlings by giving them the nutrients they need to thrive, we will do the same for our island community through meeting farmers and buying locally.

September 2, 2009

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Michelle Obama strives to strengthen communities through organic gardening

As many saw in headlines on March 20, 2009 Michelle Obama began cultivating the first organic garden at the white house. With the help of students from Bancroft Elementary and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Obama created a milestone in our nations history. The White House blog has a series of postings that highlight the importance of organic gardens in strengthening communities.  Further, the blog speaks to the positive environmental impacts of organic gardening and the inherent nutritious value.  The USDA promoted organic gardening through “Healthy Garden” workshops throughout the summer.

The organic garden is central to the Pacific Quest therapeutic model.  As this blog evolves, we hope to highlight the crucial role that the organic garden plays in the students journey.  As pointed out in the closing ceremony of our parent program yesterday – “the garden is a brilliant reflection of the work the students do in Hawaii.”  Gardening is demanding, especially in Hawaii.  The garden requires the students to work together to germinate seedlings, cultivate beds, and harvest produce.  The garden breeds cohesion and team work, strengthening emotional safety and social bonds.

Obama and Vilsack are taking a community movement to a national level.  Many communities across the country have found that developing and maintaining community organic gardens bring people together.  A good example of this is the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Program.  Seattle boasts 68 gardens within the city limits and is expected to build four more by the end of the year.  The program gets community members out of their houses and into the gardens – TOGETHER.

Expect many more postings from the PQ team on the importance of organic gardening – for individuals, communities, and the earth!