A 4-H Benefit You Can Sink Your Teeth Into
Wednesday - October 07, 2009
The students of Hawaii’s 4-H agricultural program could never have imagined they would have such interested and influential benefactors. In the past few years, students have had lessons not just in animal husbandry, but in cooking, eating well and the blessings that mentors can bring.
Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong have long since associated the future of their restaurants with the education of young chefs and farmers, so the 4-H agricultural program seemed a natural place to start teaching. Last year the two noted chefs each bought lambs raised by the students, but instead of selling the prepared meat in their respective restaurants (and making a profit) they invited the students and their teachers over to Yamaguchi’s house for dinner.
“So many kids think that their food comes from Foodland or Times,” says Wong. “We wanted to show them the lessons of the whole food chain.” Hawaii’s 4-H is an educational program that engages children in learning by doing. There are more than 5,000 children in the state involved in more than 100 different projects - everything from art to exercise to raising animals. And after last year’s tasty lesson (Yamaguchi cooked leg of lamb in a Vietnamese-style fish sauce, marinated overnight in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, and Wong made a lamb curry with coconut milk, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves), students prepared for another year of taking their animals from suckling to slaughter.
This year, however, the lesson they’re learning is even more advanced.
“Last year, when we involved the kids in the dinner, we weren’t really sure how that would go, but it was a great event so we just decided to expand on that this year,” says Yamaguchi, who’s planning to cook dinner, in collaboration with Wong, Oct. 14 at Natsunoya Tea House and then donate proceeds to the 4-H program - while students work hard selling tickets for the event.
“I think that 4-H is such a worthwhile endeavor for these kids,” says Yamaguchi. “It teaches responsibility at a very early age, and it definitely goes hand-in-hand with sustainability and our support for agriculture and farming.”
On the Oct. 14 menu you’ll find lamb and pork raised by 4-H members with greens and corn donated by Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms and wines donated by local distributors. It’s the completion of a circle that shows the importance of local agriculture on many levels. “The kids aren’t just raising the animals and taking care of them on a daily basis,” says Okimoto, “but they now get to see how positively the economy can be affected by local ag.”
Okimoto, who also is the president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau, is possibly more aware than anyone of the importance of the involvement of successful chefs with agricultural programs.
“Roy and Alan are the leaders in supporting agricultural programs for our next generation,” he says. “Anytime I’ve ever asked them to help out they go one step further and do even more ... they truly are awesome, and they continue to lead by example.”
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