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August 2, 2018

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HIP Agriculture Receives Award from PQ Foundation

Pacific Quest Foundation helps to steward a healthy island community by contributing to existing 501(c)(3) organizations on Hawai’i. Over the years since our founding, Pacific Quest has developed relationships with over 60 local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, employees and clients. The PQ Foundation was created to continue this tradition of stewardship.

The Pacific Quest Foundation has recently awarded a grant to the HIP Agriculture High School Mentorship and Apprenticeship Program.  We had the opportunity to interview Dash Kuhr, the Executive Director and Lead Educator at HIP Agriculture to learn more about this incredible program and how they are influencing the Big Island community.

Can you tell me a little about HIP’s background info and how it got started?

We have two locations in Kapaau (northern part of the Big Island) the Halawa Campus which serves as  the headquarters of HIP Agriculture and includes staff housing, classroom, office, design studio, and library as well as student kitchen, outdoor showers, community stage and outdoor classroom.  We also have the ʻIole Garden, which is the main pacific-style agroforestry garden, where students have the opportunity to study a more traditional indigenous system of agriculture.

HIP was founded in Spring 2011 and has been growing since!  We now have a team of eight adults we can financially support and a seasonal 6 week internship program.  The foundation of our program is based on the 3 pillars:

Youth education

Farmer training

Community outreach

HIP Agriculture is “Committed to educating and empowering the next generation of young farmers, The Hawai’i Institute of Pacific Agriculture offers a variety of programs designed to engage Hawai’i’s youth in sustainable agriculture, land stewardship, and healthy lifestyles.”

What are some of the projects and programs HIP is currently working on?  How many students do you all work with?

We serve about 1,000 students, offering field trips, after school programs and in-class presentations. We work with Kohala elementary school, as well as middle school and high school students from Honokaa, Waimea, and Waikoloa.  For the elementary and middle school students, we bring workshops and activities to supplement their science curriculum – compost and micro-organisms, pollinators and beekeeping, nutrition and cooking from the garden, and native Hawaiian plants – identification and their uses.

Middle school students have classes on plant propagation, traditional lashing, seed saving and mycology.  High school students have classes in advanced plant propagation, ecosystem dynamics, advanced beekeeping and advanced mycology.

Our high school mentorship and apprenticeship program has 23 students.  The students assist in preparing and planting the fields, laying out irrigation, fertilizing and maintenance. They learn a variety of hands on skills – including compost, harvesting protocol, fertilizer management, soil testing, ph testing, soil work, observation, and recording notes and data.  We have an apprenticeship program over the summer which provides a paid educational stipend.

Future goals of HIP and how can people help?

Our goal is to create a hui network of farmers to supply food to the local cafeterias.  We are also honing our curriculum so this program can be utilized in other locations. In addition, we host volunteer days and always need help!  We will have the Kohala Aina Festival in October and special events including Farm to Table and Full Moon gatherings.

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!

October 11, 2017

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Healthy Self = Heal + Thy + Self

By: Cynthia Albers, Admissions Coordinator

Harvesting fresh green beans from the garden

There is an onslaught of advice, cautions, directives and warnings supposedly to guide us toward a healthy lifestyle.  So, what, exactly, does it mean to be healthy?  What does healthy feel like?  At Pacific Quest students are given the opportunity to ask themselves this same question and discern what that means to them by practicing the five pillars of health…and nutrition is on that list. I asked myself those questions starting around age 16 and now into my 7th decade, many choices, actions and paths have brought me to the happy condition of enjoying health.  Undeniably, food and all that surrounds it, has played a big part.  Here’s part of that story…

I grew up with 8 siblings, birth position 2, in Maryland, just south of the Mason-Dixon line. At age 6, our brood moved into a home my parents built in the country, where we kids quickly learned the joy and freedom of roaming the woods, waterfront and fields that were part of our new domain.  Our diet was like that of most Americans of the era: 3 squares a day, with flesh featured at dinner; milk, kool-aid, water and the occasional soda pop for beverages; sandwiches of lunch meat or tuna on white Wonder Bread for school lunch, and hot or cold cereal with milk for most breakfasts. Stony Creek, an inlet to the Chesapeake Bay, supplied fresh fish and crabs, caught by our own hands, so seafood was frequently on the menu. A garden plot was carved out and tended by the clan.  As kids, we hated it!  All that work that took us away from exploring. But then, came the strawberries, cantaloupes, green beans, kale and corn on the cob, which we frequently ate right off the stalk ~ raw and full of  sweet goodness!  I began to realize how yummy these foods were, especially compared to the slimy, horrid mash that is canned spinach in the dead of winter.  I was developing a deep connection to sourcing my own food, though I had no idea at the time.

Late summers were spent helping my mother with canning: prepping and blanching corn, tomatoes and green beans, then ladling the hot veggies into sterilized jars; turn ‘em upside down to wait for the tell-tale “Pop!” signaling the seal. In the damp coolness of Autumn we took frenzied forays into conifer forests, with cousins galore, each of us given a large brown paper grocery bag and entrusted with a serrated knife. We were set loose to find and sever the wild mushrooms that lay hidden in beds of pine needles.  Now that was my kinda fun! Many bushel baskets were fungi-filled, and the families joined at our house for cleaning and sautéing the ‘shrooms with onions and butter, then filling quart plastic bags to be frozen. The bounty was distributed among the families and was served at holiday dinners all winter.

The desire to gather and grow food had inculcated my sensibilities and would last a lifetime.

Preparing a healthy meal at PQ

Fulfilling that desire has waxed and waned over the years, changing with occupation, domicile, region and season.  On the shores of Hood Canal, Washington, oysters were free for the plucking and shucking, along with wild blackberries copious along roadways. Montana mountains gave huckleberries by the bucketful, boletes and coral mushrooms to fill the pot; hunter friends who shared venison, bear (yes, bear) and elk sausage satisfied my omnivore leanings. In Hawaii, where a third of my years were lived, our jungle homestead boasted 4 varieties of avocado, papayas, bananas, citrus, and required the patience of 2 years for white pineapples; collards were endless and found their way into nearly every dinner dish.

Now, home is the high desert mountains of the Southern Sierra, gardening in this arid climate with mostly granitic soil beckons an entirely new approach. Apricot, pomegranate and mulberry trees grow most willingly here and also resist the nibbling of deer above ground and gopher below. I’ll undoubtedly find ways to forage and grow food to fuel both the yearnings and health. Doing so feeds more than the just my body…it feeds my soul.   Pacific Quest fosters ways for students and staff alike to build a meaningful connection to food and nutrition.  May connections realized at PQ stay with each of us for a lifetime and fuel health for years to come.

February 8, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Student Testimonial

Pacific quest changed my life; I realize now that nothing is impossible. With just some water and a seed I can create a whole ecosystem of life. Life at Pacific Quest helped me express my emotions in a positive way. Pacific Quest will change your life, too, if you just let it.” – Pacific Quest student testimonial

Pacific Quest: True To Our Testimonials

Pacific Quest is an internationally-recognized residential wilderness therapy program based in Hawaii that serves struggling teens and young adults from around the world. Our testimonials show just how Pacific Quest goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy programs: by cultivating change through sustainable growth. Our outdoor wilderness therapy and horticulture therapy programs teach sustainable life skills in a clinically innovative and nurturing environment. It helps young people make better choices and live healthier, more productive lives.

The many amazing testimonials from both alumni and their parents point to the pivotal changes made to each and every student who was ready for positive change. The testimonials also speak to the invaluable lessons and experiences students have had that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Read more incredible testimonials on just how and why Pacific Quest is consistently sought after as the best wilderness therapy program.

The Pacific Quest Program Through Testimonials

“My negative emotions were affecting everyone around me and I was out of control. I didn’t care about life and that was obvious by my behavior. It was a sad and difficult time for me and my family.”

Read More

June 2, 2010

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Recent study linking pesticides to ADHD

A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics links common pesticides found in food to increased incidence of ADHD.  The study surveyed children with high levels of pesticides in their urine.  Results indicate that kids with higher levels of pesticides also had higher diagnoses rates of ADHD.  This is yet another study pointing toward the importance of diet on health.

The study was conducted by Maryse F. Bouchard, a researcher at the University of Montreal in Quebec.  According to media source MSNBC, this was the largest study to date that has looked at the effect of pesticides on child development and behavior.  Her research shows that the organophosphate pesticides (comprising 70% of pesticides used in food production) have adverse effects on the nervous system specifically.

This type of information is valuable for parents and children alike.  Organic food production and consumption is the best means to ensure ones safety from dangerous pesticides and chemicals.  Go organic farmers!

Recent study linking pesticides to ADHD - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

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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 15, 2009

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Hawaii’s clean energy initiative

hawaiiwind

The Big Island of Hawaii gained national attention today in the New York Times. In an article titled Hawaii Tries Green Tools in Remaking Power Grids, author Felicity Barringer focuses on the potential for green energy in Hawaii.  The article opens with the mention of a wind farm in Na’alehu (pictured above), located at the south eastern tip of Hawaii. Na’alehu happens to be the home of the Pacific Quest field base.  Renewable energy installations such as these are exciting, as they provide evidence that Hawaii is moving toward harnessing green energy.

In January 2008, state governor Linda Lingle created the Hawaii clean energy initiative in response to oil dependence and outrageous electric costs.  She hopes to utilize a range of renewable energy sources that we have in this unique location, including wind, sun, land and sea.  Drawing on renewable energy resources not only diminishes our ecological footprint, but catalyzes sustainable development.

Right now, imported oil is responsible for producing 77% of Hawaii’s electricity, a figured unparrelled by any other state in the US.  Solar power is growing, but still constitutes only 9%.  Through agreements reached between the Hawaiian Electric Company and federal government, Hawaii has plans to increase production of renewable energy.  If the agreement is upheld, Hawaii will be responsible for generating 40% of its energy through renewable energy technology by 2030.

Should Pacific Quest care about the strive toward utilizing renewable energy?  Our dynamic model of therapeutics is heightened by engineering and community planning projects such as these.  Through the act of maintaining an organic garden students gain a tangible experience of their connection with the land.  When the students sit down to dinner, they eat the salad greens that they grew and nurtured.  Energy consumption, while seemingly peripheral, is related.  Drawing upon the energy that is created locally, with environmental stewardship in mind, only enhances the connection with the land and others.  The emotionally sustainable changes that we incur as individuals is reflected in many ways by our sustainable commitment to our families, communities, and environment at large.

For more pictures of Hawaii’s renewable energy projects visit the New York Times slide show.

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.