Categorized | Agriculture, Featured

Practical garden toolcare to kick off Mala’ai workshops to encourage home food gardens


Gerry Herbert of Kawanui Farm in South Kona.

Gerry Herbert, who has been farming nearly four decades and today operates Kawanui Farm in South Kona, became skilled in the use of hand tools through building a farm without electricity and training in blacksmithing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A master tool maker, Herbert believes in the restoration and proper maintenance of old tools, many of them superior to the newly made ones of today.

Herbert will share his expertise and a practical perspective as well as hands-on simple techniques during a Toolcare training from 9 a.m. to noon, Sat., Feb. 13, 2010. This is the first of six classes offered as part of Mala’ai: The Culinary Garden of Waimea Middle School’s 2010 “It Takes A Garden To Grow A Community” Workshop series.

The community is invited to join students, school families, faculty and teachers from the Hawai’i Island School Garden Network (HISGN) for the workshops. The program is free for WMS students and their families and HISGN teachers. For all others, a $25 donation is suggested per workshop, or $100 for all six, or individuals may request a work-trade scholarship — 2 hours of volunteer service to the Mäla’ai school garden in exchange for each workshop.

Mala‘ai volunteer John Hollands shares tool safety tips.

Joining Herbert as a workshop presenter sharing advice on the fine art of tools, including how to restore old tools, buy new ones, maintain the ones you have and use them correctly, will be John Holland, another Hawai’i Island gardening expert. Holland has gardened since growing up in a small rural town in Kansas, where he learned from his father. “Son, always know how to garden, wherever you live. There’s no better security.”

Heeding his dad’s advice and discovering his own enjoyment of growing things, Holland went on to create backyard gardens in six states over the last 60 years including muggy East Texas, cool San Francisco Bay, hot Sacramento, the damp cool Coastal Range, moderate Sierra Nevada and now the Big Island.

“My interest is to encourage people to choose a few basic tools that are most helpful to them, while remembering one’s hands are your most intimate useful tools. Our hands must be cared for as well as our clippers, digging instruments and other tools,” said Holland.

Future workshops in the series will include

  • Composting & Vermiculture (worm composting) with Norman Q. Arancon on Feb. 27
  • Kalo: The Traditional Mo’olelo and Dryland Cultivation with Lanakila Mangauil on March 13
  • Seeds and Seed Saving with Nancy Redfeather on March 20
  • Cooking From The Garden with Amanda Rieux and Matilda Tompson on April 24
  • Waimea Wet Side/Dry Side Garden Tours on May 1.

Mala’ai’s workshop series is made possible by a grant from the Richard Smart Fund through Hawai’i Community Foundation. Space is limited To register, email or call Patti Cook at 937-2833.

Gloves and garden tools will be provided for the workshops and participants are urged to bring appropriate weather protection and drinking water. A potluck lunch will follow.

The five-year-old, ¾-acre Mala’ai school garden reflects the work of over 1,000 pairs of student hands working with hundreds of community mentors. Mala’ai is funded entirely by community friends and grants to provide Waimea Middle School students with hands-on, place based learning experiences connected to academics, healthy life choices and food self-reliance. Every WMS student participates in the garden via Physical Education and Health classes as well as in conjunction with other core subjects. Patterned after Chef Alice Waters’ “Edible School Yard” in Berkeley, CA, Mala’ai integrates Hawaiian cultural learning and values into its lessons and practices and is considered a leader in the Hawai’i Island School Garden Network (HISGN).

The organic Mala’ai school garden includes both traditional Hawaiian food crops such as kalo, mamake and sugarcane, and a far-flung variety of other food and flowering crops and trees.
More than 2,800 pounds of produce has been harvested from the school garden during the first Semester to be enjoyed by students and their families.

Mala’ai is a 501c3 not-for-profit. Contributions are always welcome to help sustain the project and are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. Volunteer help is also needed to assist with garden classes, weeding, mowing, grant writing and also with securing a wide array of donations needed to keep the garden flourishing. For more information, go to

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