Hoʻōla Farms was founded to create a space where Veterans can learn, connect, and heal through meaningful agricultural experiences. This month, we proudly honor one of our AgVets, Leslie Lockhart, who continues to inspire us all.
Leslie is a military Veteran who served in the Navy as a Master at Arms working as a dog trainer/handler. After the military Leslie went back to school where she received her BS in Agriculture from UH at Hilo. Over the past few years, Leslie has completed three courses with us, each supported by a scholarship, including:
- Growing Veterans: GoFarm Hawaiʻi program where she completed GoFarm Hawaiʻi’s 7-month training for commercial agriculture production.
- Groundwork to Grow: Art of Beekeeping course where participants receive hands-on experience and a comprehensive introduction to beekeeping.
- Groundwork to Grow: Hawaii Master Food Preserver course where participants learn how to safely develop, prepare, package, and market value-added products.
Funding for these programs is made possible by USDA/NIFA 7 U.S.C. 3319, Section 7405 of P.L. 107-171, as amended., Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program and Section 760 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (H.R. 244) Enhancing Agriculture Opportunities for Military Veterans.
Leslie is currently getting her Masters in Tropical Conservation Biology Environmental Science (anticipated receipt May 2024) and doing her internship with us at our educational ranch. The focus of her internship is changing the land from ranch land to agriculture-friendly land through a combination of indigenous agriculture techniques, apiculture, vermiculture, and horticulture.
Additionally, we extend our congratulations to Leslie for starting her agribusiness, Cinder & Blossom Farm, where she sells added-value products on our online farmers market Hawai’i Farm-to-Car and plans to use the Hilo Food Hub to make infused honey! Stay tuned.
Learn more about Leslie’s Journey to Agriculture
What made you want to get into Ag after the military?
“I didn’t go into agriculture right after the Navy. After the Navy, I opened a little diner in Indiana. It was fun but did not last. That’s when I got into corrections, starting in county jail then going into the federal prison system where I worked each custody level from minimum security up to death row. After retiring from there I returned to school with help from VA Vocational Rehab. This is where I got into agriculture. I am a lifelong gardener and believe that I should be an active participant in my life and not a bystander because I don’t wanna feel like I missed something when I look back.”
What do you plan to do next?
“After graduation, I want to expand my little farm into a place where I can experiment with indigenous and conventional agriculture methods to create a new set of tools for land stewards, backyard gardeners, and anyone wishing to mālama ʻāina.”
Do you want to start your own agribusiness?
“I have already started an ag business. My farm, Cinder & Blossom Farm, is in its second year. While finishing school, I have focused on beekeeping, worm farming, and experimenting with growing mushrooms.
Once I get my food establishment permit, I will be making infused honey for sale. I want to showcase the versatility of honey. Some of the flavors I have created is a hot pepper-infused honey (think drizzled on fried chicken), a ginger-infused honey (great for sore throats), and an olena-infused honey that is tasty on yogurt. I am tinkering with new flavors and other value-added products all the time.
The running joke at my house is that I am an alchemist. One of the great joys of my life has been the pursuit of learning. I am a firm believer that knowledge should be shared, so I can see teaching as a possible part of my future.”
How has your experience been with Hoʻōla Farms?
“Each class with Hoʻōla has given me a stronger knowledge base and put me into contact with some amazing people.”