Happening at HIP

In the School Garden

By Lauren Ruotolo, Program Manager

Before I knew it, school was back in session and HiP Agriculture was jumping right back into the After-School Garden Program at Kohala Elementary School (KES). This school year there are more students enrolled in the garden program than ever before, revealing it to be favored by students of all ages, throughout K-5. The program takes place at KES’s school garden, however, what makes it special is its story, its purpose, and the collective effort that continues to promote its success.

How it all began: Once an overgrown gulch surrounding the school, the area has been transformed into beautiful rows of vegetables, flowers, herbs, and fruit trees. The garden was created 5 years ago with major help from principal Danny Garcia and, years later, FoodCorps volunteers and HiP Agriculture contributing the education component. The garden has had many hands to help it come to fruition including HiP Ag, FoodCorps members, volunteers from the community, and, most importantly, the hands of each student at KES that has contributed to its flourishing.

I am happy to say that HIP Ag more specifically myself and our program director Leslie Nugent have educated over 300 youth about gardening and nutrition in the last two years. By the end of this school year I will have taught almost 150 youth- 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Kohala Middle School about gardening, healthy eating, and sustainability issues. Last school year we taught another 150 middle schoolers at Honoka’a Middle. We are building a grassroots agriculture movement on this island that is unstoppable. It has so much momentum and power because people want fresh healthy food, clean water, and a pristine island environment and nobody will be able to stop this mass movement from getting it’s goals.

This school year at Kohala Middle has been an awesome year filled with fun and challenges. The eight graders are tough, very hard to break thru the conditioning, they softened up quite a bit over the year, and some of them actually like the garden now. Whenever I was feeling totally over it, a student would make some amazing comment, which was encouragement to keep working towards raise consciousness in the schools.