At a Maui school, a tradition revived offers new opportunities for the future

The program is designed to prepare a new generation of farmers.
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:35 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2022 at 7:11 PM HST
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LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lahainaluna High School is reviving its agriculture program to help grow Maui’s next generation of farmers.

“Lahainaluna has always had a farming program,” said Lahainaluna Boarders Association President Craig Murakami. “What we wanted to do is bring the farming program back. Some of the lessons learned from the recent pandemic was supply chain issues.”

Last week, Lahainaluna Boarders Association planted a dozen trees, including mango, avocado, ulu and banana trees. They plan to plant 20 more this week and their goal is to have a total of 100 trees in the orchard.

All the trees were donated by Mahi Pono.

“The long-term goal is food security, aina momona. We want our kids that go to Lahainaluna to be able to eat off the land,” said Mahi Pono Community Relations Director Tiare Lawrence. “Lahainaluna has always been known for its agriculture program, and so it was the right thing to do being that we are the largest farm now in the state of Hawaii, it is a kuleana of ours.”

Lahainaluna is the oldest high school west of the Mississippi River.

Murakami and his classmate Eddie Espiritu worked in the fields over 50 years ago.

Back then, it was the boarders’ responsibility to take care of the land. At that time, the school’s farm program was thriving – not just with fruit trees, but a vegetable garden even an animal farm.

“Times changed. The rules changed. It kind of slowly died off for different reasons, and eventually, almost all of it went away,” said Espiritu, the Lahainaluna Boarders Association Secretary.

After rumors of the boarding department shutting down earlier this year, they hope this small start will grow into endless opportunities.

“Maybe partner with community resources, with a farm, with an agricultural program to help provide those skills and values to our kids will provide them greater opportunities for post high school,” said Lahainaluna High School Principal Richard Carosso.

“Beyond farming, beyond anything we do here, being a boarder is very special,” Carosso said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for anyone to have.”