First Hilo cohort graduates from Master Food Preserver certificate program

The UH Hilo food preserver program is designed to teach farmers and small agribusinesses how to safely preserve products from undersold and underutilized produce. The purpose is to help increase revenues.

By Susan Enright.

Five students in commercial kitchen, fixing food, cutting citrus.
Students show their newly acquired skills at food preserving. Photos courtesy of Luisa Castro.
Some of the value-added products created by students. Jars of honey and pickles.
Some of the value-added preserved products created by students in the new Master Food Preserver certificate program.

The first ever Hilo cohort of 13 students in the Master Food Preserver certificate program graduated last week Thursday. The celebration included students showcasing their newly learned skills and the products they created during the two-week course.

The certificate program is a collaboration between the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers.

“The potential interest in increasing food processing is growing, especially after Tropical Storm Iselle and the lava flow that threatens to cut off lower Puna,” says Luisa Castro, a program instructor and coordinator with UH Hilo College of Continuing Education and Community Service.

The program was funded by a $70,000 grant from the Hawai‘i State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers to teach small agribusinesses how to develop and safely preserve products from undersold and underutilized produce. The purpose is to help increase revenues. Castro says this pilot program will serve as a model for the state.

From overhead, a shot of students cooking up a storm in the commercial kitchen.
The kitchen classroom is a flurry of activity as students work to showcase their skills and products.  Instructor Ken Love is at left in blue apron. Click to enlarge.

Ken Love, a tropical fruit grower and executive director of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers, was the primary trainer for the certificate program. He is certified to teach by the University of California Master Food Preserver program.

Among other skills, the students learned techniques for practicing safety in food preparation. “I didn’t have the right answers to give to the Department of Health,” says one student in an exit report, “but after taking this course, I have the right answers and know what I am doing is correct.”

Students also wrote that they loved the “hands-on training” and “in-the-kitchen experience.”

“The information was comprehensive and important,” shares one student. “The hands-on aspect was invaluable. The camaraderie among the members of the class was priceless. Before this class, I was hesitant about eating or sharing anything I preserved. Now, I am fully confident in the safety of the food I make.”

Others expressed gratitude at the program for instilling confidence in them not only in preserving food, but also to teach others the same skills.

“I’m really grateful to Ken Love and Luisa Castro,” writes another student. “They were an integral part of this training and made us feel welcomed and comfortable from the very first day. I looked forward to coming to class every day.”

Over the course of the year, 48 students from Hawai‘i Island-based small agricultural businesses will be trained in Kona and Hilo. In addition, they will be trained to offer the same training to others. More Kona and Hilo trainings are slated for the early part of 2015.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.