by Kyle Caires
Ag teachers on Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lanaʻi haven’t been able to gather, share knowledge, and renew friendships for a while now. So along with Britney James of the Maui Economic Development Board’s STEMworks Program, in partnership with Maui County Farm Bureau, we decided to host a professional development. It was great to see Ag teachers from across Maui County come together for the event.
We kicked off with a tour of HokuNui Maui’s Agroforestry program. The Hewahewa family shared the history of the farm and how they decide which plants to grow in their agroforest so teachers could implement the same choices in their classes.
Then we headed to the Haleakala Research Station, where teachers learned about composting and compost tea from Britney – and immediately apply what they learned via a hands-on activity making their own batches of compost and manure teas. Many Ag teachers have not actively used or taught composting in their classrooms, but expressed strong interest in learning more. So this presentation provided them with many useful lab activities and projects they can immediately start implementing with their students.
Another area of need the Ag Teachers identified was learning more about cover crops. So, three weeks prior to the event, I had my STEMworks Ag interns plant multiple trials with grass, legume, and diverse cover crop mixes. At the presentation, MCFB vice president Shyloh Stafford-Jones and I helped the Ag teachers identify and work with seven different cover crops plantings, each with specific agronomic purposes, to gain a better understanding of the practical uses for cover cropping within their own operations. We covered what each type of cover crop is used for, how long they take to germinate, and proper cover crop selection to improve soil quality. We also discussed ongoing livestock and forage research at the station with application to high school Ag programs that include animals.
Then Shyloh gave an excellent demonstration of a newly purchased no-till drill in action, planting cover crop seeds into prepared seedbeds and unprepared pasture. This tied together the importance of soil health with the use of minimal or no-till drilling, cover cropping, and composting on the farm or ranch.
Kyle and Shyloh ended the day fielding a variety of questions and offering solutions to problem areas identified by Ag teachers on their own on-campus gardens and Ag facilities. We feel they left excited to take back to students what they learned. Here are a few quotes:
“The affirmation of some things I do right and the knowledge to correct the things I’m doing wrong,” said Kapua Weinhouse, Lanaʻi High & Elementary School.
“All of the topics were very practical and helpful. Meeting my fellow Maui County Ag teachers in-person was the best part. Thank you for making this happen for all of us!,” said Keith Ideoka, Lahainaluna High School.
“New knowledge and perspectives,” said Kai Ward, Molokaʻi High School.