Text from the interview with Organic Agriculture Director, Killian Griffin:
Who are you?
Hi, my name is Killian Griffin. I’m the Organic Agriculture and Tropical Horticulture Program Director here at Big Island Farms. I was born in Flagstaff, AZ, grew up mainly in Huntington Beach, CA, and ended up moving to Logan, UT for college where I graduated with a Bachelors’ in Plant Science with a minor in Computer Science from Utah State University.
What is this program about?
The Organic Agriculture program is about “Malama ka Aina” – being stewards of the land. Not just overtaking the environment and planting monocrops, GMOs, killing our topsoil, or any of these other conventional practices that are destroying the planet. We’re here to respect nature as the owner, we are just the caretakers.
I think Hawaii is the perfect place for a permaculture farm, because of the cultural “Spirit of Aloha”. Agriculture and the community blend so well here that it’s almost second nature to not follow the normal agricultural methods and go with a more relaxed, natural way of farming.
America is several generations behind on farmers, and many of those are conventional, GMO farms producing such a huge abundance of food for so many people. I believe the future is in farmers’ markets, not grocery stores. Local food grown with care and respect for the land. That’s what this program is about.
What does your program do?
As a previous intern, I learned what worked and what didn’t and tried to organize the daily and weekly schedule of the program into something that blends well with the land and the community. In the mornings, after a delicious farm-to-table breakfast, we put in a solid few hours of garden work, focusing on a different aspect of the farm every day of the week. Mondays are mainly in the greenhouse. Tuesdays are maintaining the market garden. Wednesday is food forest. Thursday is tree maintenance. And Friday is our “Farm Friday” where all programs join in on helping weed, plant, harvest, and save seeds from these 20 acres.
After lunch, the program is broken up into one-hour blocks. The first hour is based on that week’s lecture topic, including: permaculture, arboriculture, integrated pest management and plant pathology, plant identification, tropical horticulture and greenhouses, herbalism, soil building, landscape design, and Polynesian agricultural practices. Next is a lab focused on getting hands-on experience with what was just taught in lecture. For the final hour of the day, interns work with me on their project.
This is a different director-facilitated project each semester, where interns assist in designing, researching, planning, proposing, and possibly implementing a new aspect of the farm. For example, this semester we are trying to re-design our composting system to better work with the growing scale of the farm, while maintaining integration with everything around it.
Community outreach is another huge part of the ag program. We have volunteer days at neighboring farms and schools, work exchange with local businesses, and even assist with the Hamakua farmers’ market in Honoka’a, about 5 miles away.
How does this program benefit the farm/world?
This program is also about producing natural food locally. Hawaii was once a completely self sufficient island, but now it is so dependent on trade that it imports 67 percent of the fresh vegetables and 65 percent of the fresh fruits available in the grocery store. I, along with our farm manager, am hoping to grow not only enough food to sustain ourselves and the internship, but to give back to the local community. We’re also out there, on the farm, every day. Taking notice of when fruits ripen, when there’s an outbreak of aphids on the medicinal plants, when the compost needs turned, when we might need to apply some supplemental irrigation or compost. It might not be much in the scope of the world, but we are the caretakers of this land. Malama Ka Aina.
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