Anneli Suurkask, grade 3, is turning the crank on the cornmill with Iki Lincoln, grade 3, looking on. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Students learn to make corn flour during a field trip to the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch and Maze. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Students from Waimea Country School had an opportunity to pick their own pumpkins during a trip to the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Pr(PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
From left, Romane Barbier, a Waimea Country School third grader, cleans corn from a cob during a visit to the Kohala Mountain Pumpkin Patch. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Kaze Hasegawa goes through the corn maze during a visit to the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Waimea Country School students learn how pumpkins are pollinated during a field trip to the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Haunted houses, candied treats and scary costumes are all part of October fun, but really appreciating autumn means heading outdoors to explore a pumpkin patch or get lost in a corn maze.
Earlier this month, the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze opened its gates to the community for fall festivities. The farm is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekend, and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays through the end of the month. The Big Island’s first and only locally grown pumpkin patch is located in Kohala Mountain Road between Waimea and Hawi on Highway 250.
The idea for the pumpkin patch started with Stacy Hasegawa, a local resident who received her B.A. in agriculture from the University of Manoa in 2000. Hasegawa was inspired by her work with Aloun Farms in Oahu where she spearheaded her own educational program and worked as their community outreach coordinator.
“The first year I ran the program, I had about a thousand kids,” said Hasegawa. “Then within a 2 year period it went from a thousand to over 10 thousand kids that went through their school program.”
Hasegawa later moved to Hawi and recognized the need for more family-friendly activities on the island. She approached the Richards family, who owns Kahua Ranch, who supported her idea and donated a 1.5 acre plot, along with the necessary water needed to sustain the crop.
Today, Hasegawa’s brainchild is also sponsored by the North Kohala Community Resource Center and has grown into a 23 acre farm that includes 5 acres of pumpkins, a 6.5 acre corn maze, and other supporting crops. This year Hasegawa expects to harvest as many as 5,000 pumpkins.
Featured this year is the farm’s new corn maze that is 20 percent larger than last year’s maze. For the second year in a row, Hawegawa has conducted a design contest for middle and high school students who are currently enrolled in a school garden program. The winner of this year’s contest is Sofia Peterson from Kanu o ka Aina New Century Public Charter School.
Peterson’s farm-inspired design includes a barn with a tractor, pumpkins, corn stalks, a sun, and a puu. Her winning design was sent to a professional maze designer on the mainland who adapted Peterson’s creation to develop a layout for the labyrinth. For having her design selected, Peterson will receive a helicopter tour for two from Blue Hawaiian Helicopters so she can view her maze design from the air.
With dedication and hard work, Hasegawa has seen her dream of a community farm come to fruition, but not without a few hardships along the way. Just when she was about to pull the plug on the project due to its overwhelming demands, her friend Benjie Kent offered to move from Kansas City to Hawaii and become her full-time farm manager.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this if it wasn’t for the local businesses and people who’ve showed up to help me,” said Hasegawa. “It’s not just about me. It’s about the whole community stepping up to make this farm an educational opportunity for all of us.”
Hasegawa feels it’s important for people to understand the amount of work it takes to put a meal on their plate. “Understanding how we get our produce gives people a whole new understanding and appreciation for those who dedicate their lives to farming,” she said. “I feel that unless we expose children to fun activities that are agriculture related, we’ll be unable to sustain our island economy for future generations.”
In addition to the annual corn maze challenge, this year’s new activities include corn-doll making, a juggling workshop, and a duck race, using old-fashioned 18th Century water pumps. On October 26th there will be a special Glow in The Maze event, with a haunted hay ride, costume and carving contests, and s’mores making.
Entrance to the farm is free, and there is an admission for the corn maze of $9 for adults and $7 for children 6 to 12. Attendees can bring a non-perishable food item that will be donated to North Kohala Food Basket and receive $2 off the price of admission to the corn maze.
For more information, call 345-6323 or visit kohalamountainfarm.com.