Student farm at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Gabriel Sachter-Smith Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Greetings everyone!

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I thought I'd share here a modified version of an article I've written for a local newsletter about the student farm I help to run.

As far as bananas go, I have collected about 40 different types so far. Most are edibles, but I've also planted 6 varieties of M. balbisiana for windbreaks and non-fruit uses, as well as multiple Rhodochlamys species I am using in my experimental breeding project. For the edibles, there is a wide variety including multiple cultivars of: East African Highland, Fe'i, Hawaiian traditional (Maoli/Popo'ulu and Iholena), local favorites, rarities and more. Since BBTV is present here as well, I am also using the collection as a preliminary in field testing site for reactions to BBTV among this diverse group, many of which are poorly known and have not been challenged with the virus.

I have taken a lead in establishing the collection and teaching other students how to grow bananas in Hawaii.

The SOFT (Sustainable Organic Farm Training) club is a student farm based at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Beginning approximately two years ago with the concept of a student farm among faculty at UH’s CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources), the farm has grown into a primarily student run organization. Principally, the goal of the farm is to teach the basics of growing food sustainably via hands on experience from the time the seeds are planted until the crops are sold (or eaten!). There is also an experimental component where students are encouraged to plant a variety of different crops in various systems to find out more about what we can grow. Weekly produce sales are held on the Manoa campus where a small variety of crops (whatever can be harvested that week) are sold. Sale proceeds are small, and are put towards the cost of running the farm, mainly seeds, fertilizers and tools which are always in need and in short supply.

Although the bulk of students involved are from CTAHR’s department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, the club is open to anyone and a wide range of students participate, including UH students from Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Botany, Political Science, Art and other departments and backgrounds. We even have an international intern from Germany who has been helping us develop our projects.

Multiple growing locations exist. CTAHR’s Waimanalo research station is home to a one acre plot containing more than 20 different fruit trees, a collection of over 40 different banana varieties, sweet potatoes, an herb garden, a soon-to-be model agroforestry system and a recently acquired coffee plot among an assortment of other various crops. A smaller garden exists on campus at the Magoon research facility where vegetable crops are grown and harvested fresh for the weekly produce sales. Additionally, the students of SOFT have teamed up with teachers at Noelani Elementary School in Manoa to create a food garden for first graders.

For more information, visit our website or email me.