Who would have thought I might actually be a decent farmer? My co-teacher, students, and I have been working on our school garden for the past month. We finally finished clearing a substantial amount of land next to our school. The owner of the plot of land was nice enough to let us start a school garden for free. It has taken about two weeks to clear all rubbish and old roots from our garden area. In the past three weeks, we planted some seeds to make some seedlings and it has been growing at a ridiculous pace!
The seeds that we planted were all donated from the US thanks to Candi DeCarlo of Harlan, Iowa. Our goal this year has been to experiment which crops grow the best on the type of soil available on our island. So far we have planted: tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, peppers, corn, watermelons, potatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and onions. We plan on expanding with: cantaloupes, eggplants, carrots, potatoes, and local crops such as: bananas, papayas, and vanilla beans. Every day the garden continues to expand as more seedlings have been transplanted to a more permanent location. We have been very lucky that the perimeter fence has kept all the unwanted animals from entering into the garden area. Pigs in Tonga have been known notoriously in ruining vegetable gardens!
(PHOTO: The boys water the plants every day after school and then search for mangoes with the rest of the kids afterwards.)
The students have been responsible in clearing most of the land and watering the seedlings every day. They all seem to enjoy being involved with the project. The students have been very intrigued with the new crops such as the pumpkins and cantaloupe. Overall, the majority of the villagers have been impressed with how fast the crops have been growing. Many of them had doubts that anything would grow on the piece of land that we had to work with. As a result, we have been asked numerous times if we will be sharing all the crops with the villagers. We have not really decided how we will distribute the crops yet, but we will probably try to divide it with all the students' families. If there are any extra we will distribute it evenly to the rest of the villagers.
What is the next stage of the GPS Matamaka garden? If our luck continues to a successful harvest in a few months, I hope to expand the project with the youth group of Matamaka. The Matamaka youth has a nice piece of land outside of the village that is currently not being used. My co-teacher and I will help coordinate with the youth to implement a large scale garden/farm with more fresh produce. The Matamaka town officer already has our approval for the expansion next year. In addition, I will be contacting the Vava’u Youth Congress to learn more about their greenhouse gardens in Neiafu and how GPS Matamaka can build a small scale garden at the island. Furthermore, there have been several ideas about starting an egg farm at Matamaka. I heard through the “coconut wireless” that this has been one of the more successful Peace Corps in the past. I will start researching more information about this and hopefully secure some international funds/grants with all of the agricultural endeavors in Matamaka.
(PHOTO: Planting sweet corn in our school garden and Ma’asi with the corn three weeks later.)
In the end, everything has been going very well in Matamaka. If any readers out there want to contribute to the school garden and future youth garden, please do not hesitate and let me know. More seeds of any variety are always welcome so please send them our way. I will keep everyone up-to-date with any progress and photos of the GPS Matamaka garden in the future. Malo ‘aupito!