Kahua Paa Mua plans to expand youth farming programs: Seeks additional funding

  • Crops are raised and harvested for locals. (COURTESY PHOTO/KAHUA PA’A MUA)

  • Students receive instructions before working with the animals. (COURTESY PHOTO/KAHUA PA’A MUA)

HAWI — For the past five years, Kahua Paa Mua — meaning building a firm foundation — has established a presence in North Kohala on two-acres at Hoea Farms in Hawi. Over time, it has expanded to 20 acres of pasture and 5 acres for crops and animal breeding.

The federal organization’s mission is “to enhance communities in economic development, conservation/preservation, social and educational programs for youth and adults.”

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KPM’s Executive Director David Fuertes leads the nonprofit’s visionary programs. With extensive experience as an agriculture teacher for more than 30 years, he was also the state’s executive director of the Future Farmers of America (FFA), Agriculture Industry. In addition, he served as Hawaii Island’s commissioner on the State Board of Ag for eight years and served on numerous boards and commissions. He was also deputy managing director of Hawaii County under former Mayor Lorraine Inouye with two terms on the County Charter Commission, and higher education partnerships with the University of Hawaii, Hawaii Community College Ag. departments and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

KPM’s current program, Ho’okahua Ai — meaning “the process of providing food for sustenance” — is at Hoea’s Korean Natural Farming Learning Lab. Sponsored by Hauoli Mau Loa Foundation, it is finishing its second year of youth mentorship for students in sixth grade through 23 years of age.

The program focuses on animal husbandry for cattle, swine, chicken and goat breeding, care and processing, crop production, Korean Natural Farming (KNF) methodologies, making inputs, application and learning the benefits of KNF to crops and animal feed.

Currently, six students are working on agriculture entrepreneurship projects raising two hogs every four months. Three students are working on cow/calf operation and one in crop production producing taro and various vegetables. Fifteen additional student mentees meet twice monthly for a full day of instruction in the various areas.

“We have been developing the programs diligently with past support grant awards from the County of Hawaii Grants in Aid funds and County of Hawaii Research &Development to develop the Hoea Learning Lab, The Kohala Center in organization of the cooperative Palili O Kohala and Hawaii Community College for Ag machinery, maintenance, operation and welding for Business Agriculture,” Fuertes said.

Other grant support has come from Hawaii Community Foundation for STEM research to understand the importance of microbial in soils. In addition, the county council has granted funding to KPM and University of Hawaii in ag internships for university students and any persons age 17 to 30 interested in agriculture entrepreneurship development or who want to expand their family farms.

“The council contingency funds given by Councilman Tim Richards has expanded our support as fiscal sponsors of the FFA programs established at Hawaii Island schools for the past two years, with strategic planning sessions with state and national FFA officers for the first year, funding for organizing and encouraging more island high schools to establish or expand their chapters. Forty student FFA members, administrators and advisers for the different chapters attended this strategic planning,” Fuertes said.

Another project funded by contingency funds supports the Kohala Elementary School Garden program, helping to expand its parent and community outreach. Funding provides more supplies for the students and an outdoor instructional area for students and participating community members.

Recently, Project Reach Out — a suicide prevention program — was delivered to hundreds of students at Laupahoehoe High School, Honokaa High School, Kanu o ka Aina and Waimea Middle School. As a fiscal sponsor, KPM will bring this program to most, if not all, of the more than 20 public charter schools on Hawaii Island. Council members in three districts have also pledged funding for four schools this school year and two more sometime next fall.

Fuertes and his wife, Carol, have partnered with North Kohala Community Resource Center to establish a newly formed Kohala Filipino Club. They’re planning a Filipino Fiesta for Oct. 20 to honor residents 80 years or older who live in North Kohala. This is also funded by Councilman Richards.

Currently, KPM has applied for 2018-2019 County of Hawaii Grants in Aid funding and State Grants in Aid to continue the Hoea Leaning lab mentorship programs and open workshops to the agriculture community. They are also seeking private donations to continue the programs.

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Depending on additional funding received, KPM hopes to schedule community workshops beginning in July on crop and animal production using KNF inputs; plan and design for land prep; KNF swine and chicken pens using deep liter system for no smell, flies and care; and maintenance of low-stress grass grazed cattle.

To donate: Contact David Fuertes at 896-0566 or kpminc808@aol.com