Taro Saturdays

First Saturdays at Ka Papa Lo‘i O Kānewai are beginning again this year, starting at 8:15 a.m. on Feb. 4.

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students and volunteers from the surrounding community come to devote their time to caring for the lo‘i, or taro patch, at the Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

Volunteers learn to perform traditional farming practices to nurture the kalo (taro) and native plants that surround the area while spending time with family and friends.

“One thing that we do here that’s a little different from other places is we make mounds to plant the taro in,” said Hiapo Cashman, the director of the lo‘i. He added that this is a traditional practice done with sugarcane and ‘awa (also known as the kava plant).

Conversing in Hawaiian also gives participants the opportunity to brush up on their Hawaiian language skills.

“Students know they can count on it for class,” said Cashman, noting that many students fulfill their community service hour requirements for scholarships through First Saturdays.

The “Hawaiian Renaissance,” a movement to revive and preserve traditional Hawaiian culture, influenced the restoration of the lo‘i in Kānewai, according to the UH Mānoa Catalog. In 1980, UH Mānoa students found the irrigation ditch that is now the lo‘i and took an interest in restoring the area. Kūpuna, or elders, taught UH Mānoa students the traditional farming practices used to sustain the kalo in the lo‘i today.

Working at the lo‘i is definitely a hands-on experience. Volunteers should not be afraid to get a little muddy.

Courtesy of Hiapo Cashman

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