My Own Field Trip

By Toukta Wongse-Ont

Corn planting at the Hoa ʻĀina O Mākaha school garden

Corn planting at the Hoa ʻĀina O Mākaha school garden

Note: Since its founding in 1979 on an abandoned five acres of land owned by the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, Hoa ʻĀina O Mākaha, “Land Shared in Friendship,” has centered its focus on supporting family, community self-reliance and peace making on the Waiʻanae Coast. The Farm, as it is lovingly known to community residents, is a place where dreams have become reality by way of a barren piece of land being developed into an educational resource center. Together with the children of its community, Hoa ʻĀina helps visitors to rediscover the Hawaiian culture, love for the land, love for each other and love for the world. This past March Toukta Wongse-On, our most frequent Nature’s Temple contributor, took her students for a visit to The Farm. The field trip chronicled here was an elevating experience for Ms. Wongse-On, whose already profound appreciation of the natural world was deepened by what she saw at The Farm. She filed a report in the Journal department of Nature, and now shares it with Deep Roots.


As I drove my car on Wednesday, March 6th, to Makaha, I felt a little weary. I had just gone on a field trip with students the day before, traveled on a school bus to a tour of a place, focused on buildings and the infrastructure. The students and I were thrilled to see the latest technology and developments. A field trip is a field trip. How would this be any different?

After I arrived at 8:00 a.m., I parked my car, and walked through the gates of Hoa’Aina O Makaha. I joined the twenty one elementary students and two teachers and followed along through the day. The students happily chattered as they walked along, complaining about the sun, at times, but there was a buzz of excitement among them. When it came time for the students and teachers to leave, I decided to stay longer and take my own “field trip” and explore the land. Mr. Gigi, the executive director, agreed that it was a good idea.


I looked at “A Report For Friends–Hoa’Aina O Makaha-2012” that I had printed from, before the trip. Mr. Gigi wrote:

In Italian the word for report is rapporto, which means to give an account, to make known, to relate. It also means to create a deep relationship with someone or something. A report should be a way to tell a complete story even if it covers only a few months. The story should be an example or a taste of the history of the place and the people who are there. The report should create a relationship between the one who writes it and those who read it, a personal involvement, otherwise it is just words on a piece of paper, probably read only once and then filed away.

When people ask me about our work at Hoa’Aina, I like to tell a story that is written in the Gospel. One day two disciples of Jesus asked him, “Where do you live.” Jesus did not give them the address, he did not give them a report, but told them, “Come and see.” So they went with him. When they came back they were all enthusiastic and encouraged the other disciples to go and see too. Our suggestion after you read this report is to “come and see.” This report might become clearer and the rapport–the relationships–will become deeper too.

The wind gently rustled the Ti leaves, and doves softly called, “Cooroocoo-co-coo-coo.” I walked past the Hale and a gazebo. On my left, I looked at a Polynesian triangle model of different islands, and an Imu (underground oven). I turned right and stopped at the “Healing Herb Garden.” Aloe, lemongrass, and different herbs were planted in the ground or containers. My eyes trailed the fifteen containers set on bricks, along the fence. Tomato vines weaved in through the chain link fence, abundant with plump tomatoes, green, and some bursting with red fruit. Kumu Kiaha, a Hawaiian specialist, came over and smiled. “You can do plenty of work out here. This is the best–to get out and be here with nature. Nature heals. My favorite part of the farm is the nursery. There you see the beginning of everything. The seeds are cute, but as they grow and become a big plant and even bear fruit, it brings me great joy and makes me want to cry.” He pointed out where it was. I thanked him and said I would make it back there, when I was ready.

I turned right and entered the animal area. There was an enclosure with raised hutches for several rabbits. In the middle, a rabbit was huddled–burrowed in a dirt hole. It calmly twitched its nose, a grey fuzziness under a bright orange table. Several lettuce leaves were scattered around it. I walked around the corner and saw Muscovy ducks sunning and grooming in their space. One goose swam in a small pond of lava rocks and concrete.

I found myself drifting back into memories of Hawaiian Acres, to the house where my parents built on nine acres of lush, untouched land. My pa had also built a rock wall and pond, slowly, using raw materials like the lava rocks on the land. I remember sitting on a lava rock wall that encircled our small man-made pond. I would rip pieces of bread from a loaf and throw it to the ducks in the pond. We also had Muscovy ducks, numbering into the twenties. Lily pads, blooming with pastel shades of pink and purple, floated above the water. An angry goose honked and woke me from my reverie and I quickly exited the animal area.

A report by Living Local TV on the history and mission of Hoa ‘Aina O Makaha, the organic farm in Hawaii known ‘The Land Shared in Friendship’

After leaving the animals, I walked into the container garden area. Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, lettuce, green onions, sage, rosemary, mint, chives in forty-eight containers were lined in rows! One container had a strawberry plant in it. Among a fruitage of green strawberries, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had produced one large ripe, red strawberry.

I made my way to the nursery, and entered. Trays of little offshoots, sprouts, were laid on raised gardens-tabletops, among small plants of a ferns, papaya trees, and more. Labeled popsicle sticks, they were pushed into the trays. But a particular tray of sprouts stood out, of different phases. Some had just begun, and sprouted out as blades. Others had a stalk head–-one bent, about to rise. Another, mature, with a full grain in the head, glistened with a drop of dew on it. The growth of these sprouts was gradual and in stages. The process can’t be speeded up or forced. It made me think of how healing occurs in stages, and that truth grows in the heart of a person, like a sprout in the soil. It progresses to maturity, and brings great joy when it produces fruitage.

As I left, I looked up at a pomegranate tree and noticed the abundance of fruitage. I munched on my Larabar and reflected on what I did “come and see” at Hoa’Aina O Makaha. This field trip report is different from the tour I took of buildings. It is not just words written in my journal. There is something inspiring about nature–-strong, spontaneous feelings that nonliving things, like buildings and a magnet, could not evoke. The meaning of this report became clearer: the feelings of history, the interdependence of man and nature, spirituality and more–God.


Posted on September 17, 2015 by Toukta Wongse-Ont at Nature Reprinted by permission.