Recap of Bean Fest 2: Open Season

Bean Fest 2: Open Season is a workshop demonstrating results of our 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant funded by the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.

Nothing says Halloween like B-E-A-N-S! This is why we scheduled Bean Fest 2 on ole Hallow’s eve. A group of 20 or so interested growers, eaters, and a chef came out to the GoFarm Waimānalo campus to see our replicated dry bean (pulse) trial in action. Unfortunately, no one came in costume. We are currently in the middle of our second trial planting of the 10 most promising dry bush bean varieties for Hawai‘i. The varieties are Beniquez, Grey Speckled Palapye Cowpea, Kebarika, Mayo Coba, Red Speckled, SB DT1, Six Nations, Sulphur, TARS-MST1, and Tiger Eye.

Background on the project

Counter Culture—in partnership with Leeward and Maui Community Colleges, GoFarm Hawai‘i, and Kawailoa Farm—applied and was awarded a USDA and Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant for 2015. The grant’s purpose is “to solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops” and our specialty crop was dry beans (a.k.a. pulses).

Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and are very useful in sustainable/organic cropping systems as they can pull atmospheric nitrogen back into the soil. But, there aren’t a lot of dry beans grown in Hawai‘i likely due to the lack of infrastructure or machinery to dry, thresh (beat the bean out of the pod), and clean. De-shelling and cleaning beans by hand is very arduous process and not economically viable. We wanted to explore the possibility of producing more dry beans in Hawai‘i and build/acquire some low-tech and shareable equipment to help with post-harvest.

Trial and trial again

For the most part the beans are growing well, but the bean fly is a worthy pest to this crop. Since our trial goal is to test these beans in organic systems, we only applied neem oil once a week for 4-5 weeks to try to deter the bean fly from laying eggs inside the stem of the plant. It is interesting seeing how much smaller the plants are on the windward side compared to the drier, sunnier Waialua and Leeward sites.

In a month or so, we will do our final harvest at all four trial sites (Leeward, Punalu‘u, GoFarm Waimānalo, and Waialua). By that time we should have a working thresher thanks to help from Agrefab and will be able to evaluate the commercial viability of actually getting from harvested bean plant to a one pound package of beans ready for sale.

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