Volunteer Highlight: Jay Higa

Jay Higa

We are lucky this year to have our first intern ever in our school garden. Jay Higa, a student in Garden For the Environment’s Get-Up Program, has been spending his Tuesday afternoons and occasional weekends helping us in the garden with all sorts of tasks, such as garden maintenance, restarting our worm bin, assisting students during lesson, and sharing his gardening/composting knowledge. We thank Jay for over 30 hours of service with us so far this year. I had a chance to ask him a few questions about his Get-Up Program, gardening, and little tidbits to get to know Jay. You can read the interview below. We thank Jay so much for all his work. Our garden intern and volunteers are a tremendous help and asset to the day-to-day running of our classes and garden program.

Where did you grow up and how did you become interested in gardening?
Jay: I grew up in Hawaii and became interested in gardening when my 5th grade class planted bean seeds and we got to watch them grow.  That introduced me to the miracle of plant life.  I also had to do some of the gardening chores around my house, primarily weeding but sometimes I got involved in the planting and harvesting of our garden.

Do you volunteer and/or teach at a different site? If so, can you tell us a little bit about their program?
Jay: I volunteer at the after-school program at Redding Elementary School, located at Pine and Larkin Streets.  I run a garden club for the after-school program.  Since Redding is in downtown San Francisco, it has limited space and the garden is located on the 2nd floor balcony of the school.  Thus, all of the gardening has to be in pots and tubs.  This makes it difficult for us to grow anything large and perennial.  Also, this school has a wide variety of students, with many immigrants from different countries.  This means that some of the students are not familiar with some of the plants while other students are not familiar with other plants.  It is a good opportunity for the students to share their knowledge.

Living in San Francisco, where do you enjoy gardening and do you have green spaces around town that you like visiting?
Jay: I like to garden in my own yard and enjoy planting, growing, harvesting and eating edibles.  Radishes, lettuces, leafy greens do especially well in San Francisco.  I enjoy going for walks in Golden Gate Park and especially like the Botanical Gardens since it gives me ideas on what I can plant.

You are a recent graduate of Garden For the Environment’s Get Up Program. Can you tell us a little bit about their program?
Jay: The Garden For the Environment is a teaching garden in the Inner Sunset, not far from Alice Fong Yu.  It is partially funded by the SF Department of Water and the Department of the Environment.  Thus, some of their goals are to teach about water-wise gardening, non-toxic gardening and conservation.  The Get Up Program is a 3-month education program that teaches selected San Francisco residents techniques in organic gardening and composting.  The program also introduces the participants to a variety of gardening and farming resources in the Bay Area, including local organic farms, college-based farming/gardening programs, and garden based training programs.  To complete the program, participants select a garden/farm-based organization to volunteer with for 40 hours.

What are your top three favorite plants to grow?
Jay: I love to grow a wide variety of plants, especially edible ones. I just planted some fruit trees (apples and asian pears) and I am intending to espalier their branches against a flat wall and a fence.  I’m looking forward to this process and think that they will become some of my favorites. I also like to grow scarlett runner beans since they grow large and fairly quickly and produce huge pods with beautiful beans.  Watching the scarlett runner bean plants grow, I can see how they came up with the Jack and the Beanstalk fable. Finally, I love to grow herbs.  I have a lot of herbs and I use them frequently.  I think my favorite herb to grow is the Asian chive, also called garlic chive.  They grow well in San Francisco but they don’t last too long when they are cut.  Thus, it’s very convenient to have them in the yard so I can harvest them as needed.
Outside of your garden internships and work, what are three hobbies you enjoy?
Jay: When I have spare time, I like to play soccer.  It’s a sport that I have played for most of my life.  I enjoy the exercise and the team camaraderie of it. I also like to travel although that takes a little more money.  Traveling exposes me to different cultures, especially different cuisines, thus, different plants. I also enjoy reading and have been borrowing more books from the San Francisco Library since their online system for reserving books is easy to use and very convenient.

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3 Responses to Volunteer Highlight: Jay Higa

  1. Jade moy says:

    Thank you, Jay, for sharing your knowledge and love of gardening with our school!


  2. Deborah says:

    Thank you for introducing us to Jay!


  3. Ryan Johnson says:

    It was great to get acquainted. We are very grateful for Jay’s contribution to our children’s education…not to mention the fact that I learned a new word from this interview — espalier!


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