Stroll past the carefully maintained garden plots at Lanai High and Elementary School, and you may spot the green tips of young kalo (taro) and ipu (gourd) peeking out from the damp soil. Or, perhaps you’ll find a variety of fruits and vegetables beginning to ripen.
Started in 2011, the LHES gardens have helped bring the community together over the years, as family members, friends, classmates, neighbors and even strangers work side by side to cultivate the land and appreciate the fruits of their labor.
“We’ve been fortunate to grow this project in size and scope through generous grant funding and donations,” said Lisa Galloway, an environmental science teacher at LHES who has helped spearhead the garden. “The garden has really prospered with the help of our community partners and hardworking students.”
Cultivating student leaders and young farmers
LHES junior Cheleigh Clarabal is a rising star and has stepped up to the plate to take the lead on the garden project. Clarabal works with LHES fourth graders once a week to prepare the soil and plant their own kalo and ipu seeds.
“It’s been really fun to teach them about all the things that go into caring for the garden,” said Clarabal. “I talk to them about how they can become their own farmers, grow all kinds of different plants, and help to sustain our island.”
The thriving vegetable plot already grows papaya, banana, corn, lettuce, beans, bok choy, broccoli, tomato and basil on the school’s upper campus. Clarabal plans to expand the crop varieties in the Native Hawaiian garden, planting indigenous species such as uala (sweet potato), wauke (paper mulberry) and ohia lehua, with its signature red blooms.
Helping hands contribute to the garden’s growth
Clarabal has led two community workdays so far, with more to come soon. “About 20 people of all ages, from babies to elders, came to work in the garden,” she said. “We have seen a lot of progress and we are lucky to have so many helping hands.”
There is never a shortage of people willing to roll up their sleeves and get down in the dirt. Pulama Lanai’s crews have helped to till the soil for use, while the culinary team at Four Seasons helped with planting.
In addition to community support, the garden has also seen its fair share of visiting experts. Rebekah Kuby from Maui School Garden Network came to teach students about permaculture and donated organic seeds and cuttings. Lanai’s own Kumu Ola Farms caretakers Nancy Rajaei and David Embry also stopped by last year to share their knowledge of composting and aquaponics.
“We have already harvested once this year and have additional plans to maintain and improve this project for future generations,” said Clarabal. “It’s grown from a student garden to something for the entire community to enjoy, and we thank everyone who has been a part of it.”