Leeward Community College aims to make its newest facility, the Wahiawa Value-Added Product Development Center, a hub for local food innovation.
The LCC is in the early stages of partnering with nearby Leilehua High School and Mililani High School to form a pipeline for students in the school’s agriculture and culinary courses.
The 33,327-square-foot facility won’t open until the summer, but in January the LCC will help students and entrepreneurs create value-added items like pickles and sauces from local produce and bring them to market. start the program to
The completed facility will house the state’s first high-pressure high-pressure processor that can be used to extend the shelf life of foods, from meats and vegetables to ready-to-eat products.
“Suddenly, we can reduce the shelf life of our products from three days to three weeks, making it more attractive to bring to our chain of 20 stores across the island,” said program director Chris Bailey. increase.
Originally Tamla’s warehouse, the back of the building is flanked by loading docks for receiving produce, washing, processing, and packing the finished product for shipment or delivery. Distinctive food industry white tiles cover the wall spaces surrounding industrial stainless steel stoves and hoods in each of the four kitchens. The upper floors of the center have meeting spaces where students and entrepreneurs can host business meetings and events.
The facility is part of a broader plan to revitalize Wahiawa, led by Senator Donovan Dela Cruz. Once a thriving plantation town, Wahiawa was hit hard after the pineapple industry moved overseas in the 1980s. His 43% of Wahiawa residents now float just above the poverty line, where they cannot qualify for many government assistance programs, but they often cannot afford basic necessities. . Alice Report.
Over the past decade, Dela Cruz has raised nearly $400 million for new developments in the district. This includes the Whitmore Project, agricultural assistance schemes, and Ag-Tech parks to help farmers obtain affordable land leases and labor housing. The state has purchased over 3,000 acres of her farmland in the area. Galbraith Estatewhich is now leased to a local farmer.
The overall goal is to increase local food production while providing more opportunities for residents.
“One day some of these students may be as big as Big Island Candies,” said Dela Cruz.
Aligning farmers and students through food innovation
Leilehua already has a strong agricultural programme. Thanks to Mr. Jackie Freitas, there are now about 200 students working in the fields from his original 67 students.
In addition to traditional farming, Leilehua students have built vertical farming towers, experimented with hydroponics, and dabbled in animal husbandry. Soon they will be using farm bots.
Freitas students are already making basic value-added products such as mamaki tea, jelly and chili water in the farm’s certified kitchen.
Students in this program will be able to work with local farmers to use unattractive but perfectly good produce for new produce.
On some farms, less attractive produce, known as “number two” or off-grade, accounts for 15-30% of a given yield. Inflation has increased the demand for these lower grade products, most of which are either discarded or returned to the fields.
At Kahuku Farms, a 100-year-old family-owned farm on Oahu’s North Shore, owner Kylie Matsuda commissioned products like lilikoi balsamic dressing and lilikoi butter to use at her family’s farm café. I’m already using the lower grade. Shelf life. She is also open to new product ideas from students that utilize this grade of produce.
This year, Poni Askew, food entrepreneur and local agriculture advocate, founder of Street Grinds and Cultivate Hawaii, launched a three-day value-added camp for middle school students in Wahiawa.
In both spring and fall camps, children spent three days at Leilehua High School. I harvested in the fields with Freitas, prepared in the kitchen with cooking teacher Brandon Hanagami, and pitched with school business teacher Brandon Tong.
At the end of fall camp, Askew said nearly half of the students wanted to enter a career path in agriculture when they started high school in Reylehua.
She said it makes a lot of sense to offer product development and food manufacturing within Hawaii’s university system.
“It’s about how we can help promote success in that world for those who want to succeed,” she said.
Attraction of Ag-Tech
Hawaii’s farmers are aging, with about 40% over the age of 65, and have struggled for years to recruit young people to work in the fields. But someone like Hilo hydroponic farmer Raymond Kawamata, who does all his high-tech operations indoors, doesn’t experience such a shortage.
LCC Chairman Carlos Peñalosa said that incorporating technology into agriculture and local food production will make the industry more attractive to Hawaii’s next generation of farmers.
“The concept of controlling irrigation from a mobile phone app is important. Our students no longer see themselves watering their fields, hoping it’s not a hot day.” he said.
Matt Carika, AG teacher at Mililani High School, has seen a big change in his students in recent years. Five years ago, the kids who walked into his class were there because they didn’t choose their electives.
“They have heard in the news about how dependent we are on food from the mainland and they understand how serious this is,” he said.
His students want to be involved in changing Hawaii’s reliance on imported food, but points to broader opportunities in agriculture.
“I try to open their eyes and see that farming is not just farming. You can do it, and there are many ways,” says Calica.
Fortunately, Karika says it in his class There are still a few children who enjoy nothing more than going to the fields and digging weeds.