Moiliili garden the right step to food sustainability

Travis Quezon

HONOLULU—Hawaii residents like Ilma Anikow were relieved to hear that Matson Navigation Co. and its unions reached a contract agreement last weekend. Matson employees had announced the previous week they were ready to strike if an agreement wasn’t met.

“No Matson strike ... toilet paper and SPAM for all!” Anikow jokingly posted on Facebook, relieved that she didn’t have to stand in line behind other fearful Hawaii residents at Costco to stock up on food and supplies.

The fear that we suddenly won’t have enough food to feed ourselves stems from the sobering statistics that show Hawaii imports 85 percent of its food and that 80 percent of all goods sold in the islands come via shipping companies like Matson.

That fear, while unfortunate, is one that simply doesn’t have to be, says Lydi Morgan, a local green thumb and educator in sustainability. Establishing food sustainability can happen right in your backyard, she explains. Morgan works with The Green House and Kokua Hawaii Foundation AINA In Schools program to educate Hawaii’s youth on ways to increase food security in the islands.

“It doesn’t take a huge area,” Morgan said. “People can grow food wherever they can.”

On what was once a vacant debris-filled lot in Moiliili, community members have come together to develop a neighborhood garden that is truly sustainable—meaning that no fertilizers or oil-dependent products were used.

The idea for the garden first came three months ago when Morgan had noticed the lot while visiting a friend that lived in the neighborhood.

After receiving permission from the land owner, volunteers were rounded up to clear the area.

“We always tell people in the neighborhood that they’re welcome to be a part of it, but I think some of them are waiting to see what happens,” Morgan said of the grassroots project still being in its early stages.

Once the area was clear, compost was collected from various sources and spread out across the soil. Manure was donated from horse farms on Oahu and mulch was donated from tree trimmers in the area.

And because the Moiliili area is very hot, neighbors in the garden’s vicinity keep the crops (including green beans, onions, and daikon watered) Morgan says.

“I’d like to grow vegetables and not have to buy them at the store,” said Francis Manuel who lives down the street from the garden. Manuel is interested in helping to grow cucumber and green onion.

Community gardens are a way for neighbors to work together in helping Hawaii to reestablish food sustainability, Morgan explained.

“I think we really got off track, Hawaii was completely self-sufficient in the ancient days,” Morgan said about having to relearn sustainable living. “Everything we need [to have true sustainability] is already here. And anybody that has the knowledge is welcome to share.”

To find out how you can volunteer on the Moiliili garden or help out, email [email protected]. For more information on food sustainability, visit and