Master food preserver students showcase their skills and products to instructor Ken Love (in blue apron). (photo courtesy of Luisa Castro)

The first ever cohort of 13 students in the master food preserver certificate program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo graduated in October. The celebration included students showcasing their newly learned skills and the products they created during the two-week course.

The certificate program is a collaboration between UH Hilo and the Hawaiʻi Tropical Fruit Growers. Ken Love, a tropical fruit grower and executive director of Hawaiʻi Tropical Fruit Growers, was the primary trainer for the certificate program.

“The potential interest in increasing food processing is growing, especially after Tropical Storm Iselle and the lava flow that threatens to cut off lower Puna,” says Luisa Castro, a program instructor and coordinator with UH Hilo College of Continuing Education and Community Service.

The program was funded by a $70,000 grant from the Hawaiʻi State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to the Hawaiʻi Tropical Fruit Growers to teach small agribusinesses how to develop and safely preserve products from undersold and underutilized produce.

“The information was comprehensive and important,” shares one student in an exit report. “The hands-on aspect was invaluable. The camaraderie among the members of the class was priceless. Before this class, I was hesitant about eating or sharing anything I preserved. Now, I am fully confident in the safety of the food I make.”

Over the course of the year, 48 students from Hawaiʻi Island-based small agricultural businesses will be trained in Kona and Hilo.

Read the full story at the UH Hilo Stories website.

—By Susan Enright