The University of Hawaiʻi has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to its exhibit tents during this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Visitors have tried hula, lauhala weaving and taro pounding. They also learned about navigating by the stars, lomi lomi, aquaponics and taro patches.

The exhibit, however, has been about more than the University of Hawaiʻi. It has been about the community working together.

UH Mʻnoa alumnus Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Kū Maoli Ola, one of the largest Native Hawaiian plant nurseries in Hawaiʻi. The company transported the taro patch exhibit and aquaponics plants free of charge.

“We brought over nine boxes of plants—it was a six-foot-tall pallet of plants and there was a lot of plants that we were able to bring up,” said Barboza. “Now we got a loʻi. Now we got a nice aquaponics system that features some native plants and Polynesian introduced plants,” said Barboza.

Hui Kū Maoli Ola also transported decorative plants used for UH exhibits and presentations.

“It was good, it helped to spruce up the place and really provide a sense of place for all the Hawaiians that are here,” said Barboza.

Maʻo Farms brought some of its young people to the Folklife Festival to showcase its Farmwork to Higher Education Program, which allows young people to work part-time on the farm in exchange for a monthly stipend and a scholarship to Leeward Community College.

Derrick Kiyabu of Maʻo Farms says there challenges and opportunities in Waiʻanae. “What we want to do is increase and equalize access to higher education out there.”

And it’s working. The youngsters from Maʻo Farms are troopers and handling the summer heat well as they proudly share their knowledge of agriculture with more than a million visitors at the Folklife Festival.

Kiyabu says he brought the five young people to D.C. to “show people what we’re about.” He also wanted them to “get out of Hawaiʻi and see that people all across the nation are interested in what we are doing.”

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The University of Hawaiʻi will be among 20 public land-grant universities to be featured in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. from June 27 to July 8, 2012.

The festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act, which paved the way for higher education for rural and working class Americans.

The University of Hawaiʻi exhibits will feature traditional Hawaiian health and healing practices, a mini taro patch, non-instrument navigation, medicinal herb and organic farming and much more. Hawaiʻi Community College’s halau Unukupukupu and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Tuahine Troup will also perform.

See more on the University of Hawaiʻi’s Smithsonian experience.

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