HONOLULU (KHON2) – From farm to table, the Institute for Human Services has a program allowing their participants to grow produce and sell them at local grocery stores and farmers markets. 

Institute for Human Services (IHS) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on uplifting and inspiring those who find themselves houseless by offering them tailored solutions. 

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Each year IHS houses over 2,000 people across their 10 shelters on Oahu. Single individuals, families and couples needing help can find a safe place to stay at one of their facilities. 

They typically house people for around 90 days with the goal of helping them find affordable housing and getting a job to help support them on Oahu.

Having valuable work experience is very important when beefing up a resume that will land you your next job. 

Shelby Dixon is the Urban Agricultural Specialist for IHS and said through IHS’s program people can take classes to learn how to grow, care for and understand the fundamentals of gardening. 

“Typically, we focus on lettuces, a variety of lettuces,” said Dixon. “We do a lot of sweet Italian basil and other herbs like sage, thyme and lemon balm.”

IHS garden is located on the rooftop of one of their shelters. It’s a quiet peaceful location that receives the perfect amount of sun to garden all of their produce.

She said it’s nice to see people come through the program as a student and then go on to be an agriculture tech. 

“They can see initially the seeds they planted and then get nurtured by them and then grow into this magnificent bountiful produce,” said Dixon. “It’s just seeing them light up and having that sense of purpose and having them feel like they contributed to this.”

Taking care of plants and tending to a garden is more than gaining work experience. For many it’s a way to de-stress, focus on a given task and watch their hard work thrive. 

“There are small actions that they can see manifesting into this bigger picture,” said Dixon. 

Kara Berger has been with IHS for about a month and a half. She said her goal is to find affordable housing and get a job that allows her to get back on her feet. 

“With this program we get a certificate which we can add to our resume which is very good and multifaceted ways,” said Berger. 

Not only that, but those who are part of the program get the opportunity to feed others. A lot of the produce and herbs they harvest goes right back to the nonprofit. Chefs will cook using the fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and lettuce that is picked.

Berger said it took her about 5 weeks to complete the AG program and at the end of it she received her certificate of completion. 

“I didn’t realize I was going to learn that much because I had gardened in the past, but this is aquaponics, and I didn’t have any knowledge about that,” said Berger. 

What makes this rooftop garden different from the rest is the fact that they use an aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a combination of using fish farming to grow plants in nutrient dense soil. 

The fish will help fertilize the soil and in return the plants that grow will get all of the nutrients needed to thrive. 

Within the past few months Dixon had the idea to sell the bountiful lettuce, veggies and herbs to their local grocery store.

“We began selling these crops to Down to Earth a couple of months ago!” said Dixon. “We sell mixed lettuce greens, arugula and basil.”

From farm to table, the people helping the IHS rooftop garden get to say they contribute to feeding their peers and also the community.

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If interested in donating or volunteering with IHS head to their website