For eight years and running, the Hawaiʻi County 4-H program, part of the Cooperative Extension Service housed in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), has found a special way to bring out big smiles from its smallest members: a contest of giant fruits and vegetables.
Becky Settlage, Hawaiʻi County 4-H agent and state coordinator for the Hawaiʻi Junior Master Gardener Program, was looking for a unique and fun way to get youth excited about agriculture. Her goal was for keiki to appreciate and love the outdoors, and learn to be self-sustainable.
With the “stay at home” situation this year, the contest started earlier than normal as a way for keiki to do something while stuck at home.
This year’s entries exceeded 2019 by 236%, and several state records were added. A total of 75 entries ranging from tomatoes, giant pumpkins, watermelons, bushel gourds, long gourds and sunflowers, were weighed and measured through the end of October.
“Little do these children realize that, besides having fun trying to grow a giant pumpkin, giant watermelon, giant tomato or giant sunflower, we’re also secretly teaching them a love of science, and skills such as problem solving, responsibility, teamwork, recordkeeping, and of course, getting outside and being active in a safe way,” Settlage said.
Wendi Sasaki, a parent participant who has entered the contest the last two years, said “The opportunity to grow ‘giants’ with my children is a blessing. We were able to spend quality time together, learning and ʻgrowing.’”
The winners were presented their award during a virtual ceremony on Saturday, October 31.