Moloka‘i was once the world-renown producer of kiawe honey.

HO‘OLEHUA, MOLOKA‘I – Over the past few years, Moloka‘i farmers have been hit hard by a common yet often overlooked farming challenge – poor pollination.

“One of the issues here on Moloka‘i is we don’t have a lot of domesticated bees,” said Jennifer Hawkins, an Agriculture Technical Assistant, who runs programs that provide educational and technical assistance and services to Moloka‘i homestead farmers.

No bees on the island is almost startling, since Moloka‘i was once the world-renown producer of kiawe honey.

“Moloka‘i itself back in 1920s or 30s was the largest producer of honey in the world,” said 52-year-old John Freeman, a fourth-generation Moloka‘i farmer.

Ho‘olehua farmer John Freeman in his butternut squash field.

Along with his cousin Kyle Apo, John runs their family’s 40-acre homestead lot in Ho‘olehua, selling papaya and butternut squash to vendors on Maui and Moloka‘i.

Since losing part of their watermelon and butternut squash crop to poor pollination, John has been a strong advocate of the new Native Hawaiian Beginning Beekeeping Class, a program Jennifer helped design to help Moloka‘i homestead farmers manage pollinators for their crops and farms.

John joined other homestead farmers twice a month for six months learning everything from handling bees to building a hive for their own farm.

Molokaʻi Beekeepers

Students from Moloka‘iʻs first beginning beekeeping class suit up for bee-duty.

John is already seeing results from the small hive of about 600 to 700 bees he installed on his farm.

“If he can see a difference in his crop with just this number of bees, think of when we get a big hive,” said Jennifer.

This program is one of several offered to homesteaders on Moloka‘i, through a partnership between the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources (UH CTAHR) and Hawaiian Homes.  Similar programs exist on Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i.

To participate or for more info on Moloka‘i programs, contact Jennifer at (808)567-6935 or email her at [email protected]

Here are more photos of the John’s farm and the Native Hawaiian Beginning Beekeeping Class: