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Eat (Very) Local

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 11/01/2017 More stories >>

CTAHR alumnus
David Fuertes says,

CTAHR alumnus David Fuertes says, "My passion is working with kids." David is executive director for nonprofit Kahua Pa‘a Mua, Inc.

David Fuertes understands two things that bring a community together: meaningful work and food. The nonprofit Kahua Pa‘a Mua, Inc. (KPM), of which he is executive director, works to strengthen his North Kohala community through these, offering educational and cultural programs for youth and adults based on growing food and caring for the land.

After earning his undergraduate degree in tropical agriculture from CTAHR, Mr. Fuertes got his teaching certificate and went on to become an ag instructor at Kohala High School. Now retired after 32 years at the DOE, he partners with his son, a UH Hilo graduate, as a part-time cattle rancher and as a mentor for KPM.

“My passion is working with kids,” he confirms. KPM offers men­torship programs in animal husbandry, crop farming, and agriculture construction. Mr. Fuertes incorporates Korean Natural Farming methodologies into his teaching and ag production, using locally available and homemade inputs cultured with naturally occurring microorganisms to improve the health and well-being of plants and animals.

CTAHR alumnus David Fuertes says,

The centerpiece of Kahua Pa‘a Mua is raising pigs in student-built Deep Litter System pigpens.

The centerpiece of the program is raising pigs. Students build their own Inoculated Deep Litter System pigpens, which use KNF techniques to negate the usual problems of flies and smells. There’s no wastewater runoff from the pens, since microorganisms and a composting litter on the floor control sanitation naturally. Participants learn market techniques by buying weaned piglets from Mr. Fuertes, raising them, and then selling the grown pigs to outside markets. KPM offers training on employment opportunities and starting a business, but more importantly, the youth gain confidence and a stronger sense of culture and their place in their community.

Sustainability is key for Mr. Fuertes, who says using locally produced inputs helps keep costs down and creates healthier foods. Animal feed and compost fodder come from kitchen scraps, sweet­potato culls, leftover macadamias, and locally grown moringa. Backyard trees are chipped for bedding for the swine. His family is working to establish a meat-processing and retail sales outlet in North Kohala, part of their plan to create a full-circle production chain in which crops and animals are raised and processed in Kohala and then sold directly to the local community. In line with Governor Ige’s commitment to double the amount of locally grown food by 2030, this goal far surpasses it in scope—they hope to see 50% of all food eaten in the district produced there. And if expertise, energy, vision, hard work, and community commitment can do it, they’ll make it.