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Picking pineapples

October 11, 2012 - Leah Sherman

Before this week, my only experience with anything agricultural went back more than 20 years to the summer between the 8th and 9th grades, when my friend and I thought walking soybeans for a week would be a "fun" job. Walking beans was a right of passage for a lot of kids — it was a job that paid well and you got to hang out with your friends. What nobody told you — until it was too late — was that it involved long days in the midsummer heat, walking down seemingly endless rows of soybeans and hacking weeds with a hoe. There is absolutely nothing fun about this. After the first hour or so, my friend took the hoe to her big toe. Whether or not it was an accident was never really determined but, thanks to her, I never had to return to that soybean field. Nor did I ever attempt any other jobs involving field work.

So, what would compel me to spend Wednesday morning in the middle of a pineapple field? A good cause.

Waste Not Want Not Foundation's mission is "to stop all the unwanted fruit from ending up on the ground or in the trash and get it to those who can use it but don’t have the means to collect or buy it." The foundation relies on donations of various fruits (and they are expanding to vegetables) from farmers, tree owners and others. If you have excess produce still in the ground or on a tree, volunteer pickers will be scheduled to come and harvest the crop at no cost. The fruits and vegetables are then distributed to organizations and facilities that serve Maui's needy, including Feed My Sheep, Hale Kau Kau, Hale Mahaolu and Family Life Center.

Wednesday's mission was pineapple. The crew was made up of Waste Not Want Not's Kehau; two volunteers with Feed My Sheep, Jerry and Skip; and me and my husband, B.

We meet the others at an Upcountry location, then hopped in Kehau's vehicle and caravaned to the Hali'imaile Pineapple Co. field. (The company donates literally tons of fruit per year to Waste Not Want Not's efforts.) Once we reached our first field, Kehau gave us a quick lesson in what a good pineapple looked like and we got to work.

I'm not going to lie, it was very hot. But the pressure was low — choose a row, walk down it, pull the pineapples that looked good, throw the fruit in a pile at the end of the row and when you thought you had enough, pack them in a crate. When the crate was full, it got carried over to Kehau, who weighed it and then packed it into the back of her SUV or stacked it on the back of the Feed My Sheep truck.

By the time we got to our second (and last) field of the day, we'd kind of found our groove. While B took on one end of the field, employing the method from the first field, Skip went to the middle of the field and picked the fruit, threw it to me (halfway between him and the truck) and I turned and threw it to Jerry, who packed the crates. It was a fun game — how many would I drop; how far could Skip throw a pineapple; how fast could we move?

After just 90 minutes, all of our crates were full and our harvest weighed more than 2,300 pounds. And thanks to our efforts, many people across Maui will be enjoying fresh pineapple.

Waste Not Want Not Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Pineapple gleaning is done every Monday and Wednesday, weather permitting. Volunteers and donations are always welcome. For more information, see the link to the foundation's website or call 874-8038.


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Skip works at the first pineapple field on Wednesday.


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