SA ‘Students plant future, restore past at Ka‘ala Farm in Waianae’ 1/20/19

By Mindy Pennybacker
January 20, 2019 Updated January 20, 2019 6:47am
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Students from Nanakuli High School work in kalo fields, cook with ulu and perform other hands-on learning tasks at Ka’ala Farm in Waianae Valley under the supervision of Eric Enos, executive director of the nonprofit Ka’ala Farm. Star-Advertiser video by Dennis Oda /

It was a clear, cool, blue-sky morning of breathtaking beauty at Ka‘ala Farm and Cultural Learning Center, a green, 97-acre oasis at the top of dry Waianae Valley, where streams were diverted in the 19th century to irrigate plantations of sugar cane. Starting in 1978, under the leadership of the nonprofit’s executive director, Eric Enos, some of the water flow has been redirected back to Ka‘ala Valley, where ancient kalo loi and auwai (terraced fields and irrigation ditches for growing taro) are being restored and cultivated in the traditional Hawaiian way.

Nanakuli High students work on Ka‘ala Farm as part of a Department of Education program A‘ali‘i, which lets them earn enough credits to graduate. “The kids struggle with attendance, behavioral issues or just their family life,” said teacher Jewelynn Kirkland. Above, students had come in from planting kalo in November. Before eating, everyone joined hands and said a pule.

“Where we are (the farm, as well as an adjacent 1,100 acres of former Ka‘ala Ranch, both leased by the nonprofit from the state) is the best preserved agricultural village system, with three major heiau and the loi still intact, because it was never bulldozed for sugar — too rocky,” Enos said as he and Jewelynn Kirkland, a teacher at Nanakuli High & Intermediate School, supervised 13 students planting dryland kalo. Against the backdrop of the stark cliffs of the Waianae Range and the sea shining far below at the valley mouth, it could have been a scene from ancient Hawaii, except for the young peoples’ T-shirts, slippers, jeans and shorts.   Continue reading