SOFT students help educate the keiki on organic farming practices,
nutrition, ecology, food safety, and other STEM areas.
Not only committed
to sustainability but triumphantly sustainable itself, the Sustainable and Organic
Farm Training (SOFT) CTAHR student organization is now in its tenth year and
still going strong. This group of student volunteers and faculty mentors is
dedicated to creating a place for student exploration and leadership in
agriculture and highlighting the role of ecological processes in sustainable
local food production and community health.
create and maintain edible landscapes and coordinate campus food-waste pick-ups
from UH Mānoa and Noelani Elementary School for their compost piles. They have
plots on the Mānoa campus in the Sustainability Courtyard and alongside the Art
Building, including a flourishing banana grove, and they also have a larger
garden area at the Magoon Research Facility. The group was recently awarded a
Green Project Implementation Award, given to student-led sustainability
projects with measurable impacts on campus, in the amount of $10,000 from the
Johnson Controls to create a sustainable food system on the UHM campus that
repurposes food waste for food production.
The SOFT students'
partnership with Noelani Elementary School is in its seventh year.
Perhaps their most
fruitful and popular venture is their volunteer partnership with Noelani’s
first-grade teachers based at Magoon. They work together to create student
gardens that educate the keiki on organic farming practices, nutrition,
ecology, food safety, and other STEM areas. Not only do the students get to see
the miracle of plants germinating, feel the sun-warmed soil in their hands, and
literally eat the fruits of their labors, they’re fulfilling science components
of the DOE curriculum!
Over the years,
SOFT students have shared different types of gardens with the first-graders:
one year they grew the ingredients for a bountiful vegetable soup, another year
the makings for spaghetti sauce. Once they planted herb gardens with lavender,
lemongrass, rosemary, sage, and parsley; another time, they created a version
of the Native American planting system of corn, beans, and squash. They’ve
experimented with companion planting, introducing their youthful charges to the
concept of plant allies.
now in its seventh year, has been so successful that a fourth-grade cohort has
been added, and SOFT is committed to teaching them as well. Many of the
fourth-graders remember their first experiences with the school gardens they
tended three years ago and are excited to learn more and get their hands in the
dirt again. There’s no better way to nurture the next generation of local
farmers—from the ground up!