Garden Island welcomes new community garden

Joan Conrow
“We need to decentralize and re-localize. That’s one of the keys to having a more resilient food system.”

LIHUE—Nonprofit organization Malama Kauai has moved forward with making the Kilauea Community Garden a much needed reality for Kauai residents. The garden project, located on four acres of donated land in the Kalihiwai Ridge agricultural subdivision, was proposed after gathering input from local green thumbs at the Kauai Agricultural Forum last April.

“Through that collaborative process of working with 350 people, many of whom worked in the agricultural sector for decades on Kauai, one thing they identified was that we needed community gardens,” said Keone Kealoha, executive director of Malama Kauai.

The forum helped to assess Kauai’s food sustainability through collaborative thinking.

“We need to decentralize and re-localize,” Kealoha said. “That’s one of the keys to having a more resilient food system.”

Moving forward to create a resilient food system is not an onerous process, Kealoha added.

“This kind of garden can happen without a lot of capital and investment,” Kealoha explained. “We have enough land and water in our community. We have all the pieces we need. It’s just a question of putting them together.”

While Malama Kauai continues to work through the logistics, the group aims to act as a resource for residents interested in planning a garden for their own communities. Kealoha said the project’s garden manager will help residents get started with their plots. Malama Kauai also plans to hold one workshop each month on grafting, permaculture, and other gardening topics to build participation.

Initial plans call for starting with 1.5 acres of land and expanding out into the rest of the acreage as demand for garden space increases. The idea is to enlist those who lease the first plots to help install the fencing and irrigation needed for the next section, Kealoha said.

Kehaulani Kekua, kumu hula of Halau Palaihiwa o Kaipuwai, performed a traditional Hawaiian blessing for the garden—with passing rain showers paying a kind of homage to what Kealoha termed the “aina-based lifestyle.”

“We specifically chose this day as it is the transition of one lunar cycle into the next,” Kekua said in a press release that announced the garden’s opening. “The moon phases on and around this day include Kane and Lono. These Akua are particularly important to cultivation. Kane represents the water and all life, while Lono represents the working knowledge of the land.”

Kekua said it is important, when working the land, “to look to our ancestors for guidance for they were the masters of the art of cultivation. Through the traditional practice of proper protocol we can draw upon their mana and success.”

For Malama Kauai, returning to a community mindset is essential for creating a sustainable future in Hawaii.

“Community gardens build relationships, strengthen communities, and produce nutritious food,” Kealoha said. “That’s a powerful thing, when you can feed yourself and you know how. That’s something that’s faded in the last generation or two, and we need to revitalize it. It’s hard to maintain balance with your environment when you can’t meet your own needs.”

For more information, contact Kealoha at [email protected] or 808-828-0685 x14.