A community garden is going up on the campus of the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College.

“We wanted to have a place where students and faculty and the greater community could come and learn about growing their own food,” said Jennifer Chirico, the executive director of the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui. The institute is part of UH Maui College and is responsible for setting up and running the garden.

Hundreds of volunteers, from middle and high school students to residents in their 60s, are working to transform the one-time, weed-filled lot into a thriving garden.

“One of the big issues that we face in Hawaiʻi obviously is that we import 85 percent of our food,” said Chirico. “So one of the first steps in getting more food secure in Hawaiʻi is learning to grow your own food.”

It’s been a team effort. On top of all of the work by the volunteers and Maui College employees, the Maui County Board of Water Supply put in the irrigation system, and Community Work Day is assisting in designing and building the garden. The non-profit focuses on teaching sustainability and brings school groups to work in the garden.

“Sustainability doesn’t have to be this thing that is just for hippies on the homestead,” said Rebekah Kuby, Community Work Day’s garden coordinator. “Anybody can do it. We can show it is fun. We can show how wonderful it is to do, to grow your own food, how tasty the veggies are.”

Students from Hui Malama Learning Center are among the many groups participating in helping to create the garden. They spent one day preparing the soil for planting.

“Instead of a regular compost pile, we are actually doing it in the ground,” said Hui Malama student Tylar Purdy. “So it will pretty much feed and it will break down and it will create all kinds of nutrients for the plants we are going to be planting here in the community garden.”

Maui College students, faculty and staff, and the greater community, can utilize the space for growing food, educational events and classes. For more go to the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui website or call (808) 984-3379.

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