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The Gathering Place

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 05/02/2017 More stories >>

Faculty Volunteers are caught in a rare moment of inactivity, posed in front of the experimental dragon fruit plot.

Faculty Volunteers are caught in a rare moment of inactivity, posed in front of the experimental dragon fruit plot.

Everyone else is doing all the work. This is the refrain of the retired faculty volunteers at Poamoho Research Station: they’re just hanging out, at most doing what they’re told. All the others are worthy of praise—farm manager Susan Migita, Extension agents Jari Sugano and Jensen Uyeda for their projects and for managing the volunteer programs, fellow helpers. But the volunteers themselves are self-deprecating: “My wife kicks me out of the house in the morning.” “Gotta keep busy till time to go to the bar.”

But the truth is, these volunteers bring a wealth of scholarly and technical knowledge and decades of hands-on expe­rience when they arrive for their weekly or even daily shifts, and they’re invaluable to the station and its activities. Some explain more seriously why they volunteer. It allows emeritus Extension agent Steve Fukuda to do meaningful work without getting tied up in bureaucratic or institutional constraints. He doesn’t have to write reports or pursue grants; he can just do the work that needs doing. His latest project is constructing clean-propagation boxes to grow banana.

The multi-variety avocado
orchard at Poamoho is planned, planted, and tended by the volunteer corps.

The multi-variety avocado orchard at Poamoho is planned, planted, and tended by the volunteer corps.

Dr. Ken Takeda says he’s healthier now than he was when he was retired fifteen years ago; volunteering keeps him in great shape. A retired horticulturist, he continues to put that experience to work by grafting and pruning in the diverse avocado orchard he and George Kibota have planted and tend. Now 87, Mr. Kibota also keeps fit with volunteer duties, lugging buckets of fruit and clambering into the bed of a pick-up with the agility of a man forty years younger.

Rose Saito, a 4-H Extension agent in Family and Consumer Sciences, chose Poamoho as the place to offer her talents after retiring, setting up and tending a series of exemplary worm bins to use up the excess produce grown in the Station’s variety trials and providing vermicompost tea for faculty member Dr. Koon Hui Wang’s research. The volunteers help with other projects, too: the variety trials for mamaki, cabbage, and low-chill peaches; the evaluation of citrus; the experiments for getting the prized long white stem on negi green onions.

But perhaps retired soil physicist Dr. S.K. Chong expresses the motivation, and the atmo­sphere at the station, the best. Having researched at Poamoho as a CTAHR grad student, he always knew he’d return, though it turned out not to be for many years. “It felt like coming home,” he says.