Farm Apprentice Mentoring (FAM)

Lehia Apana

Editor's Pick, Education


“Maybe we should turn back,” I said to my husband, Brad, my tone more command than suggestion. We were lost, and the late-afternoon sun was dimming by the minute.

An hour earlier, on a whim, and with a rusty machete in hand, we decided to go bushwhacking to see what we might find. And now, engulfed by eight-foot-tall Guinea grass—whose prickly leaf blades are nature’s equivalent of fiberglass—I was itchy, weary, and ready to head home.

Well, technically, we were home. Earlier that week we had collected the keys to our new house and future farm. This land on Maui’s north shore would be our agricultural canvas. Just one problem: We weren’t farmers. Sure, we knew our way around the nursery section and had amassed a collection of seeds that bordered on hoarding, but we weren’t ready to make the leap from garden beds to farm plots.

Turns out, we weren’t alone . . . Story continued here.) 

*** I’ll pause here for dramatic effect. ***

What you just read above are the opening paragraphs of a magazine article I wrote about Hawaii Farmers Union United’s (HFUU) Farm Apprentice Mentoring Program (FAM). Brad and I went through the program, and absolutely loved it. If you’re serious about taking your gardening obsession to the next level but aren’t sure how, this is the answer.

At its heart, farming is about community. The FAM program is exactly that—a farming FAM-ily of mentors and apprentices with a common goal of growing more food.

Now, let me be honest. This program is INTENSE. We spent many, many hours in the classroom, on-site at farms, at home studying, etc. It was a love/hate relationship at times. We loved all the ‘ike being downloaded into our brains, and treasure the relationships we formed, but it also meant lots of time away from the farm.

After a weekend spent doing FAM activities, we’d come home feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of work that still needed to be done on the farm. Some weeks included several night sessions, which meant rushing from our day jobs to a class at UHMC, then getting home a couple hours later ready to collapse into bed.

But was it worth it? HECK YEAH. As the saying goes, “good things don’t come easy.” In fact, that’s not just a perfect tagline for the FAM Program—that sums up farming!

Enjoy some photos of our FAM experience.