Posted on March 3, 2016
Camp Homelani is going BANANAS!
by Rob Noland, Director, Camp Homelani
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:29-30)
Camp Homelani and Revolution Hawaii are getting into the banana farming business. Early this year Homelani groundskeeper Steven Dempsey and a crew from Revolution Hawaii began preparing a large plot of ground in order to plant the camps first banana patch. Weeds were cleared, soil was tilled, trenches were dug and pipes were fitted. Finally, 13 small apple banana plants were lovingly placed in their new homes with the hope of one day producing a crop that will be able to educate, minister to and feed a host of hungry campers.
Dempsey says it will take about a year before those campers get to taste this first crop but it will be well worth the wait. While much smaller than the traditional bland bananas found at grocery stores, the compact apple banana has a firmer texture and packs a mouthful of sweet tangy flavor. The healthy snack is a sought after local Hawaiian favorite that is enjoyed by both children and adults alike.
An interesting fact is that each plant produces only one hand of bananas in its lifetime. In order to maximize the gardens potential, each tree will be cut down after it has given its fruit, allowing new ones to grow up in its place. The hope is that once the plants begin to reproduce, the patch will grow in numbers and there will be bananas ready to harvest year round. This is good news for Camp Homelani chef David Lucas who not only is responsible for making the meals but also purchasing the food. He believes that by going directly from farm to table camp will be able to save money as well as give campers a treat by serving fresh home grown fruit. “We may even be able to earn income by selling Homelani bananas at the local farmers market,” says Lucas.
Apple Bananas are just the first step in Camp Homelani’s quest for self-sustainability. Already two different strains of 25 tiny papaya trees have sprouted from seeds purchased by Dempsey from the University of Hawaii seed lab. Right now they are enjoying life in a large starter tray but soon they will be transplanted into individual pots and when they are about a foot tall will join the banana plants in the Homelani garden. Pineapple, passion fruit, lime, grapefruit, chili pepper, onions, lettuce, beans, peas, tomatoes, various herbs and even coffee are soon to be planted and eventually added to the menu. There are even long range plans to grow Samoan coconut, mango and avocado trees throughout the camp.
The best part about this future Garden of Eden is the wonderful teaching opportunities it will provide for the multitude of campers that stay at Homelani during the summer and throughout the year. Its exciting to think that we will be able to show children first hand how plants grow and provide food. Campers will have a chance to help contribute by starting their own seedlings, tending to the full grown mature plants as well as harvesting, tasting and enjoying the bountiful produce.
However, our ultimately goal is to be able to present to all campers a creative, powerful God who not only grows gardens but more importantly cares for and loves each one of them unconditionally. In fact, He’s bananas for them!