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Students and volunteers bring in the harvest for the Puna community

Alice Suncloud, left, oversees students, faculty and friends of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School as they load a harvest of oranges and tangerines at her farm during a program outing. The farm hosted the group which learned about growing and harvesting local produce

Alice Suncloud, left, oversees students, faculty and friends of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School as they load a harvest of oranges and tangerines at her farm during a program outing. The farm hosted the group which learned about growing and harvesting local produce. (Photo by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.com)

By Kristin Wohlschlagel,  Contributing Editor, Hawaii247. org

On a rainy Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, Fred and Betty Blas have gathered friends and nine high-school students from Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences Public Charter School to harvest fruit from an organic farm in Kurtistown. The produce will be donated to Da Poi Bowl food pantry in Pahoa the Friday after Thanksgiving. The students are members of John Theismann’s Workplace Readiness Program and have worked with Blas and the Hawaiian Beaches Action Team before on other projects benefiting the community.

When meeting Pahoa resident Blas you can’t help but notice how excited he is about good things happening in his community. Wearing a faded “Hawaiian Beaches Action Team” t-shirt and driving his equally faded little red pick-up truck, his energy and enthusiam draw people together to work on projects improving this particular place on earth.

Community organizer Fred Blas picks oranges with Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School faculty and students at Suncloud Farm in Hawaiian Acres during a workplace readiness program outing. (Photo by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.com)

Community organizer Fred Blas picks oranges with Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School faculty and students at Suncloud Farm in Hawaiian Acres during a workplace readiness program outing. (Photo by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247. org)

Minutes after joining Blas in Pahoa, the group drives off in a small caravan along a maze of bumpy, muddy roads through Hawaiian Acres subdivision.

After a trek along unpaved roads, the vehicles turn into the winding driveway of Suncloud Farm. The sky lightens and the rain showers turn to mist as smiling host Alice Suncloud welcomes the volunteers to her farm.

Suncloud started the 21-acre farm more than a decade ago with her husband Scott. The Sunclouds chose to farm organically and developed the land into an amazing array of orchards and raised plant beds. Everywhere you look are trees laden with fruit. After a quick briefing from Suncloud about the rules of the day (No climbing the trees!) and donning rain ponchos, students march through tall, wet grass to begin their harvest. Suncloud’s dog, Red Dog, keeps a good distance from the crowd, unsure what to make of the visitors invading his usually peaceful domain. With buckets and baskets in hand the students made a beeline for the orange orchard.

Fred tells Dana Keawe, a volunteer and coordinator for Da Poi Bowl food pantry in Pahoa, “This is what these kids need… to get out in nature, learn to work together and to see where the food comes from and then to give it back to the community.” Keawe smiles and shares that she is looking forward to offering fresh fruit along with the hot meal and bag of groceries she plans to serve this Friday.

Teachers Theismann along with Debbie Isabel and Dannica Walsh, have their hands full instructing the kids on how to twist the oranges from the branches instead of tearing them off. Their steady voices keep students on task and before long baskets are full of golden fruit. Betty Blas comments, “These oranges look better than the ones at the store!” Moving further into the orchard, kids and adults alike enjoy eating juicy mandarins and rambutans which accidentally had their skins torn open during harvesting.

Jericho Gary, left, and Matthew Rita, of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School, pick oranges at Suncloud Farm during a workplace readiness program. The farm hosted the group which learned about growing and harvesting local organic produce.  (Photo by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.com)

Jericho Gary, left, and Matthew Rita, of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School, pick oranges at Suncloud Farm during a workplace readiness program. The farm hosted the group which learned about growing and harvesting local organic produce. (Photo by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247. org)

Students and volunteers transfer buckets of fruit to boxes carried on a tractor driven by Suncloud. With farm work done the students, wet, hungry, smiling and laughing, relax under the eaves of the farmhouse to enjoy lunch. The crew enjoys Spam musubi and homemade cookies prepared at 2 a.m. by volunteer Sherri Yamamoto, of Hawaiian Beaches. Soon, Alice’s lanai is covered with tired, happy people sprawled in chairs and on porch steps enjoying second helpings of the ono food. Soon it is time to leave, with teachers reminding everyone that the surf class at the school is waiting to use the van for their afternoon surf session at the beach.

Laden with fruit and happy kids, the caravan winds it’s way back out of the jungle roads and to their school in Pahoa. The students learned a little about organic farming and a lot about working together and sharing the fruits of that hard work. Now they look forward to sharing the produce with hungry families visiting Da Poi Bowl pantry the day after Thanksgiving. The adults will remember how good it feels to be a part of such a great effort. And Fred is already sharpening his pencil to plan his next community project.

Alice Suncloud can be reached at: scottandalice@earthlink.net. John Theismann can be contacted by emailing nenue@juno.com or by phone at 808-769-1178. Dana Keawe can be contacted by emailing danamalina@yahoo.com

Da Poi Bowl food pantry is on the last Friday of each month between 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. They serve a free hot meal and give out bags of food during this time at the Pahoa Community Center.

Alice Suncloud, left, oversees students, faculty and friends of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School as they load a harvest of oranges and tangerines at her farm during a program outing. The farm hosted the group which learned about growing and harvesting local produce

Alice Suncloud, left, oversees students, faculty and friends of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School as they load a harvest of oranges and tangerines at her farm during a program outing. The farm hosted the group which learned about growing and harvesting local produce

Rita Suncloud transports a load of produce harvested by Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School

Alice Suncloud transports a load of produce harvested by Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School

Organic oranges at Suncloud Farm

Organic oranges at Suncloud Farm

Paul Hiilei of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School, harvests oranges at Suncloud Farm in Hawaiian Acres during a workplace readiness program outing.

Paul Hiilei of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School, harvests oranges at Suncloud Farm in Hawaiian Acres during a workplace readiness program outing.

Organic Rambutan at Suncloud Farm

Organic Rambutan at Suncloud Farm

Atom Christian, 16 years-old, of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School spends a morning at Suncloud Farm in Hawaiian Acres during a workplace readiness program outing.

Atom Christian, 16 years-old, of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School spends a morning at Suncloud Farm in Hawaiian Acres during a workplace readiness program outing.

Billy Jones, 15 years-old, of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School harvests oranges at Suncloud Farm.

Billy Jones, 15 years-old, of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School harvests oranges at Suncloud Farm.

3 Responses to “Students and volunteers bring in the harvest for the Puna community”

  1. John Theismann says:

    Aloha,
    and mahalo for the awesome job on my students! Let’s do this again soon. Ma ke pono,
    John Theismann

  2. Debbie Isabel says:

    Mahalo Kristin and Byron for a well written article, complete with awesome photos. It was our pleasure to participate in such an awesome experience. We hope to work with you again sometime soon.

    Malama Pono,
    Debbie Isabel

  3. Steve Hirakami says:

    Thank you to all those involved in sharing the important lesson in life of giving to one’s community. I am sure that the students walked away with feelings of accomplishment that will stay with them well past high school. What an appropriate Thanksgiving project!

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