Students in a class on sustainable agriculture gather in one of their vegetable gardens on campus during last semester’s final presentations. Photo credit: Norman Arancon

Among the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo courses aimed at helping members of the university and local communities practice sustainability, is a class dedicated to sustainable agriculture. Taught by Associate Professor Norman Arancon, the class focuses on the factors and criteria required for any agricultural practice to be classified as sustainable. In conventional agriculture, synthetic inorganic fertilizers and pesticides are used to maintain the farm; the sustainable agriculture course covers organic alternatives.

When Arancon started teaching the sustainability course in 2010 it was structured as a lecture class paired with a lab when students would take field trips to local farms.

“Having the same format for every class and seeing the same farms every semester [is monotonous],” says Arancon. “That’s why I introduced learning gardens around campus.”

Students listen to a finals presentation in the garden.

Placed strategically around the campus—near Edwin Mookini Library, the College of Agriculture building and Nowelo Bridge—these gardens help students apply what they are learning in the classroom and in the field. Arancon says the gardens on campus are a way that students can reconnect with the land and understand how hard it is to start producing food.

“Food is the most intimate thing we put into our body,” he says. “Food is what we are, but now, we don’t even know our food or where it comes from.”

The main goal of this course is to help students have a different view when they look at plants.

“It’s more than just an understanding of how agriculture can be more sustainable,” Arancon says. “It’s a lifestyle and you can contribute to it in any way that you can.”

For more on the learning gardens, read the full article at UH Hilo Stories.

—A UH Hilo Stories article written by Anne Rivera, a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor

This article is part of a series on curriculum and projects at UH Hilo focusing on sustainability.