Farm Program A Victory For Lanakila

Lanakila Pacific hosted a blessing and groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 21 at ‘Nalo Farms to celebrate the opening of Victory Farms and Gardens, a partnership between the service provider and ‘Nalo Farms. A $50,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation and Meals on Wheels Association of America provided the startup money for the project.

“Thanks to ‘Nalo Farms and the Walmart and Meals on Wheels Association of America’s Building the Future Vision grant program, we’re excited to start this program as an extension of Lanakila Teaching and Learning Centers,” said George Kutterer, Lanakila TLC coordinator. “Learning to farm will enhance independence and help participants think beyond their challenges. And they’re happy knowing their hard work is helping Lanakila Meals on Wheels kupuna.”

Victory Farms and Gardens

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Kahu Tom Van Culin blesses the land Feb. 21 at a groundbreaking ceremony for the opening of Victory Farms and Gardens at 'Nalo Farms in Waimanalo, while (from left) Nusi Amosa, Johnda Barnette, Alvin Gouveia, Harley Van Natta and Tracey Holstein look on. Victory Gardens and Farms is a partnership between 'Nalo Farms and Lanakila Pacific, sponsored by a grant from Walmart Foundation and Meals on Wheels Association of America. Photo from Lanakila Pacific.

Lanakila Teaching and Learning Centers’ participants will work on the farm to learn how to grow soybeans. The project will supply fresh, low-cost produce for Lanakila Meals on Wheels and provide training for people with disabilities.

Dean Okimoto, owner of ‘Nalo Farms, said soybean is a good crop for the participants because it is relatively easy to grow and it matures quickly, allowing the student farmers the opportunity to work with the crop through all phases of development.

“They are going to have opportunities in different areas to be successful and to see what they like doing,” he said. “I think it’s going to do very well. It allows ‘Nalo Farms to try growing some new products and to develop other things that we can partner with Lanakila to help them raise money.”

Participants have cleared one acre of land and will begin planting this week. ‘Nalo Farms has set aside an additional two acres to be farmed in the future.

Okimoto said there is plenty of growth potential for the program. One idea is to make tofu from the soybeans, which would provide even more opportunities for the farm and Lanakila. Kutterer said such opportunities are critical to the participants’ development.

“It opens the door by giving them another skill as they work toward their independence,” said Kutterer. “It is something they can go out into the community and when they are looking for a job they can say, ‘I have hands-on experience. I have worked in the agricultural industry.’ And a great topping to that is they can say they worked in the agricultural industry with Lanakila Pacific/’Nalo Farms. It’s more than taking a few classes. They have that hands-on experience.”

Organizers said the partnership between ‘Nalo Farms and Lanakila comes at an important time, as Lanakila Meals on Wheels has a wait list of more than 200 seniors who need nutritious meals.”