There’s a small taro farm nestled next to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s Hawaiian studies department that will be getting some international attention this summer.

Ka Papa Loʻi ʻO Kānewai will be featured on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for two weeks in June and July, as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. About 1.5 million visitors attend the annual event where this year, they’ll be treated to an authentic taro patch right on the National Mall.

“Trying to copy what we’re doing here on a little bigger scale and then taking it to the mall is a little challenging, but I think we’re really excited to be sharing what we do here,” said Ka Papa Loʻi ʻO Kānewai Director Hiapo Cashman.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to educate and get as many people excited about what we do here in Hawaiʻi,” said graduate student Summer Maunakea.

Maunakea and other students created a four-foot by six-foot taro patch in their outdoor classroom, that they will replicate on the National Mall during the festival.

The taro farming students will be among the 80 UH delegates who will share their knowledge with visitors from around the world, including how they plant, grow and harvest 69 Hawaiian varieties of taro.

“There’s a lot of important things Hawaiians did traditionally to farm. So if we take some time to slow down and look at our history, a lot of the answers are there already,” Cashman said.

Cashman has taught his students how to nourish the taro without the use of fertilizer. Students crush old leaves and plants to feed their taro.

“Trying to incorporate traditional ways of planting and doing it today modernly will help diseases, with all kinds of pests that are plaguing our different crops,” Cashman said.

“Hopefully, it’s something that the visitors and the people at the Smithsonian can kind of take with them and apply to their own communities that they live in,” Maunakea said.

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.