close up of green papayas

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Molokaʻi Extension team assists the community in increasing their papaya market success and fosters Native Hawaiian farms with a creative philosophy: “Think like a papaya.”

Extension Agent Glenn Teves offers this unlikely advice to help farmers succeed on Molokaʻi.

Glenn Teves
Glenn Teves

On a practical level, he means farmers should figure out what they would want if they were papaya plants in order to help their trees flourish in the hot, dry, sometimes inhospitable Hoʻolehua region.

Fellow Agent Jennifer Hawkins is also helping Molokaʻi organic papaya producers to implement best management practices for increased market success. This includes growing more varieties of organic papaya since Molokaʻi doesn’t have any diseases that could harm the papaya crops.

Teves’ recommendation reflects a larger holistic philosophy of farming—being at one with the plants and the ʻāina. It is a sense of farming that involves working with the crops, the soil, the precipitation and the climate.

Working with the state is part of the web of interdependence between the communities and the farmers. Teves and Hawkins serve in the Beginning Farmer program which coordinates with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to foster new Native Hawaiian farm families through a hands-on, experiential agriculture education program.

This sense of cooperation is what makes extension work on Molokaʻi unique, not only from the Mainland, but also from other islands, Teves believes.

Read the full story and more about CTAHR’s collaborations statewide in their quarterly impact report.