Good ideas are infectious. One good idea, a Kaua‘i tradition for more than a decade, has spread south to O‘ahu and the Big Island. This year marked Kaua‘i’s 11th annual Agricultural and Environmental Awareness Day, an education fair for fifth graders hosted by CTAHR’s Kaua‘i Agricultural Research Center and supported by the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, the county’s Office of Economic Development, the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, and Monsanto. About 500 students, educators, and community members delved into agriculture and natural resource management, examining current issues and future career options.
Kaua‘i’s Awareness Day originated with retired county administrator Terry Sekioka and former research associate Susan Keller. They recognized that with fewer families working in agriculture, more children would think that food comes from the supermarket rather than the farm. An event was developed to plant seeds of curiosity that might motivate a new generation of agriculturists.
Attending the 2005 event, associate dean Charly Kinoshita saw an opportunity to expand this outreach. Aided by Keller’s and Sekioka’s expert advice, Kinoshita, assistant researcher Traci Sylva, and county administrator Kelvin Sewake brought Agricultural and Environmental Awareness Day to Hilo’s Komohana Research and Extension Center in 2006. Faculty and community presenters, volunteer master gardeners, and KTA Super Stores’ Derek Kurisu helped 350 students investigate tea, taro, tropical fruit, hydroponics, floriculture, forestry, invasive insects, and plant diseases. Future events are planned once renovations at the Komohana facilities are complete.
Sylva, extension agent Steve Nagano, and county administrator Ray Uchida debuted O‘ahu’s Awareness Day at the Pearl City Urban Garden Center in 2007. More than 500 students, teachers, and community members explored crop production, invasive species, biotechnology, bioremediation, resource management, and healthy eating habits. With Maui Community College hosting its own Agriculture and Natural Resources Awareness Day, keiki in all four counties can now learn more about what they eat, where they live, and who they can become.