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Partnerships Driving Force Behind UHMC Community Garden

“This is a revolution disguised as a garden.”

May 24, 2012
Melanie Stephens , The Maui Weekly

In the northwest corner of the University of Hawai'i Maui College (UHMC) campus is a shallow depression strewn with the remnants of cut trees and surrounded by a fence. Although work had begun, the plot doesn't yet look like the flourishing community garden it will become.

This project is being developed by a partnership with vision, persistence and cooperation between Community Work Day Program (CWD), the Maui County Department of Water Supply and the Ulupono Initiative.

Kumu Keli'i Tau'a, Kumu Kapono Kamaunu and Chelsea Tau'a led approximately 40 community members who share that vision in a groundbreaking ceremony to prepare the land for abundance on Thursday, May 10, at the blessing of the site of the future UHMC Community Garden.

Article Photos

(Left to right) Chelsea Tau‘a, Kumu Keli‘i Tau‘a, Kumu Kapono Kamaunu, UHMC Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto and SLIM Executive Director Jennifer Chirico joined with about 40 gatherers to bless the UHMC site of the first community garden on any University of Hawai‘i campus.

UHMC Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto, who will be able to look out his office window and view the garden's progress, offered welcoming remarks.

Then, Community Work Day Program Planting Coordinator Rebecca Kuby further explained the vision of the project, which, she said, "will empower UHMC students, because they'll know how to grow their own food and it will be healthy food. This is a revolution disguised as a garden. It will be the first community garden on a UH campus, so the chancellor took the first step."

"Students may have an interest, but no land," added Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) Executive Director Jennifer Chirico, "and this gives them a chance to try out a garden plot."

Over the next three months, this area will be transformed into garden plots, ready for the fall semester. Between now and next fall, Garden Coordinator Tracy Tarlow will guide the transformation of the garden space.

Tarlow gave credit to Kuby, who designed the garden to make plots for the college's culinary and science departments, and individuals who want to try on their own.

"We're reaching out to all the UHMC departments to see how they might engage in the garden and use it in their learning process," said Tarlow.

After the blessing, Tui Anderson and Cole Santos of the county Department of Water Supply, who have been designing the water system and preparing the space, worked with others to plant a windbreak of bamboo and native plants. Their expertise is seen as crucial in this dry windy corner of Kahului.

"Partnerships are the driving force behind the success of gardens," said CWD Executive Director Rhiannon Chandler.

In 2010, CWD became a part of the federally funded Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative monitored by the state Department of Health. With $73,000 for 16 gardens, CWD built partnerships with businesses, government, professionals and community groups. Over $670,000-worth of materials, services, plants and labor were donated to the CPPW gardens on Maui, Molokai and Lana'i.

"In the end, these gardens help us return to a way of living when we were most productive here in Maui Nui--growing our own food, enjoying greater physical health and stronger communities," said Chandler.

For more information, contact CWD at 877-2524 or via Facebook at



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