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Planting a Beautiful Relationship

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 08/21/2012 More stories >>


Former Interim Dean Sylvia Yuen (second from left), USDA Farm Services Executive Director Diane Ley (second from right) and other USDA officials pose with the newly dedicated nonendemic wiliwili tree commemorating USDA’s 150th Anniversary.

Former Interim Dean Sylvia Yuen (second from left), USDA Farm Services Executive Director Diane Ley (second from right) and other USDA officials pose with the newly dedicated nonendemic wiliwili tree commemorating USDA’s 150th Anniversary.

Abraham Lincoln did even more than he’s commonly known for—he brought two important American agricultural institutions into existence. In 1862 he signed into law two acts, one creating the Unites States Department of Agriculture, the other, the Morrill Act, establishing the land-grant college system. Under this system, institutions of higher learning were, well, granted land on which to establish agricultural colleges to strengthen the country’s farming knowledge. It was under this act that what is now the University of Hawai‘i was created, with pig farms and experimental plots surrounding its lone building, and it is CTAHR that remains the college most closely aligned with the original land-grant mission.

Sharing their birth year, CTAHR and the USDA fittingly share and share alike in other ways, working together on important initiatives for the state such as the biocontrol of the erythrina gall wasp that decimated Hawai‘i’s native wiliwili (Erythrina) trees. After the two came together to identify, test, and regulate the release of a predator of the wasp, the wiliwili is beginning to make a comeback in the Islands.

Glenn Teves presenting a colorful array of posters depicting various CTAHR programs on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Glenn Teves presenting a colorful array of posters depicting various CTAHR programs on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

So when the two acts’ 150th birthday came around, the college and the Department of Ag decided to celebrate…together! The institutions commemorated the day by planting a CTAHR-grown tree, a relative of the wiliwili, and dedicating a plaque honoring the acts that had brought them into being and the partnership that had nurtured their potential.

Just recently CTAHR further marked the anniversary by sending delegates to the nationwide celebration of the USDA’s establishment, a 10-day commemoration on the National Mall in Washington, DC, incorporated into the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Members of the college demonstrated their programs supporting Native Hawaiian farmers and the ease of growing crops and Hawaiian healing herbs with tilapia in an aquaponic system. Also featured was CTAHR’s Honeybee Project, which stresses not just honey production but also the extremely important pollination services bees provide. Bringing a breath of aloha to the nation’s capitol, the representatives returned with new ideas and inspiration from the other land-grant colleges as well, energized and ready for the next century and a half of the learning, teaching, and service that CTAHR was created to do.