For nearly three years, Waimea Middle School students and the Mala’ai School Garden staff have been researching, planting, cultivating, sourcing, creating recipes, taste-testing and learning to process locally grown foods as part of their garden classes to help provision the next sail of the Makali’i voyaging canoe to the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
This is the result of a challenge issued by Waimea’s own PWO navigator Chadd Paishon to all of Hawaii Island’s school gardens —to learn more about ai pono, or healthy, delicious, indigenous foods — and then provision sailing canoes with these locally grown/sourced items to keep the crew healthier, physically and mentally.
Navigator Paishon, who heads up the Na Kalai Wa’a voyaging nonprofit educational organization, envisioned the challenge to also simultaneously enhance our community’s ability to feed ourselves from our island.
“We’ve been testing recipes and growing and sourcing foods and testing recipes for more than two years. Now it’s time to do the actual preparation,” Mala’ai Garden founder Amanda Rieux said.
“We are sharing the load with other school and community gardens, but it’s a substantial undertaking because we need to feed a crew of 12-15 for an estimated 30-day sail. That’s a lot of food. Also, space is limited on the wa’a and there is no refrigeration, so most items must be canned or freeze-dried,” Rieux said.
Mala’ai is planning three workshops from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, March 9 and March 16 to process the foods that will be sent on the voyage.
“This is an opportunity to learn about our delicious ai pono recipes and preservation techniques. It’s serious work but very important to the voyage,” Rieux said.
The work will occur in Waimea Middle School’s certified kitchen and community members are urged to sign up to assist by emailing AmandaRieux@gmail.com.
Also part of the workshop series will be a session focused on seeds, seed saving and the importance of seed diversity to local and global food systems. This workshop will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23 in Mala’ai garden.
To conclude this intense series of preparation workshops, students, families and community helpers will gather to celebrate completion of this pa’ahana — hard, industrious work — with a wa’a send off celebration from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 18 in Mala’ai garden.
“Attendees will get to taste the recipes that have been made for the voyage, learn more about ‘ai pono foods, and celebrate the send off of our wa’a,” Rieux said.
Helping sponsor this series of workshops is The Atherton Foundation.
For more information, go to www.Facebook.com/Malaai:The Culinary Garden of Waimea Middle School, or email AmandaRieux@gmail.com.