Reaping what they’ve sown: Waimea Country School selected as Big Island Chocolate Festival beneficiary

  • Head of School Amy Salling oversees WCS’s beneficiary booth at last year’s Big Island Chocolate Festival. (COURTESY PHOTO/WCS)

  • Waimea Country School students pick produce they have grown in their garden. Herbs, flowers and vegetable starts are among the items that will be available at Saturday’s spring plant sale. (COURTESY PHOTO/WCS)

WAIMEA — Although Waimea Country School (WCS) students will not be cooking or tasting chocolatey concoctions at the Big Island Chocolate Festival (BICF) April 27 and 28 at Hapuna Beach Resort, they will reap the monetary benefits as one of five selected beneficiaries.

“This is the second year we have been a beneficiary. Last year, we were awarded $2,500 for our school garden program, Na Keiki Aloha Aina,” WCS’ head of school Amy Salling said. “We provide volunteers for the event to help with registration, the silent auction and security as part of our beneficiary commitment. This year we have a mix of current parents and board members who are volunteering.”

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Another school beneficiary is Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

Presented by the Kona Cacao Association, BICF is a fundraising event that benefits local nonprofits associated with culinary education, cacao farming/education, local chocolate farming or sustainability.

“When I looked at the festival’s mission, I realized we would be eligible because of our emphasis on teaching sustainability. While we do not grow cacao, we are teaching our keiki the importance of local food production and of growing food in a sustainable way,” Salling said. “The students find great satisfaction in being outside and harvesting the food they have planted. They also learn how to prepare and utilize the plants harvested. This process promotes healthy eating habits and knowledge of how to eat local, slow, nutritious food.”

For WCS, participating in BICF has several benefits.

“It’s less about the culinary aspects of the event than it is about supporting our garden program, which may inspire our students to someday stay here in Hawaii and grow food, including cacao,” Salling said.

The school’s garden program provides hands-on learning for the students. For example, one year they planted ‘uala (purple sweet potatoes) in the spring and harvested, cooked and served them at the school’s back to school picnic in the fall.

Waimea Country School is part of the Hawaii Island School Garden Network, whose mission is to “help island schools build gardening and agricultural programs that will significantly contribute to the consumption of locally produced food.”

Showing the results of their labor, all WCS students will help sell fresh herbs, flowers, vegetable starts, landscaping plants, crafts and produce they’ve grown at a spring plant sale from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday in the school’s St. James Circle location. Proceeds will directly support the school garden.

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“We also volunteer and partner with local organizations such as Ulu Laau, the Waimea Nature Park, and the local food pantry. We plant and consume local foods, and we inspire the next generation to make healthy choices for their bodies, their communities and the environment,” Salling concluded.

For BICF tickets: Go to https://bigislandchocolatefestival.com/tickets