Food Growing Proposal

SUBHEAD: Proposal for a food growing resource coordination for Kauai.  

By Arius Hopman on 7 March 2009 for Island Breath 

Image above: City of Honolulu Parks Department Community Recreational Gardening Program. Photo by Juan Wilson near Diamondhead, Oahu.

 [Author's note: Aloha All: Here is the outline of a proposal that could help us coordinate home food growing on Kauai. Let's move the project along. This could turn into a grant proposal and may fit into the stimulus package specs.This is a Draft Proposal, and your input is much appreciated. Electronic copy is available. Contact Arius Hopman at or telephone (808) 335-5616]

The economic collapse of Wall Street and the economic uncertainty world-wide now gives Kauaians much incentive to grow our own food. The present obstacle and threshold is the lack of coordination of all the resources needed and the information/prototype demonstration island wide. With a coordinated and collaborative effort between State, County and residents, we can shift from over 90% dependency on imported food to a surplus of food production on the island. Historically, the Garden Island exported its’ surplus to other islands.

All organic soil amendments are available on island, albeit scattered around and sometimes inaccessible. We are blessed with three growing seasons that overlap geographically (too wet vs. too dry/hot). Ka Wai, “The Water” has more abundant water than any other island, per capita. With proper coordination it can serve our food needs as well as our water needs. Kauai being the oldest inhabited island also has the deepest and richest soil profile. We are well positioned to grow our own. The County has already made major strides by introducing the green-waste/composting program, available to citizens until recently. As we reach the limits of our global capacity to grow food, and simultaneously reach the peak of oil and an economic recession/depression, it benefits us to take control of the source of our food and water. The incentive created by these calamities is an opportunity that we dare not miss. Time is of the essence. It takes several years to establish rich organic growing soil suitable for food cultivars. Family sized gardens provide much more than food: They re-connect people with the aina and with each-other in collaborative teamwork to insure their very survival. Gardening could again become an essential component of education, both in families as well as in schools.

There are also several barriers to growing our own food: apathy and habit; the convenience of going to the store for every need; TV and other advertising; lack of gardening skills; insufficient community examples of fun gardening; the cost of water and inaccessibility of some of the basic soil amendments. These barriers are primarily institutional; they are addressed in this proposal. The main thrust is to coordinate access to water, soil amendments and supplies (irrigation supplies, fencing, organic seeds etc.).

A series of articles in the newspaper and interviews on Ho’ike are proposed to galvanize the issue and facilitate the collaboration of officials and departments. The need for inter-departmental collaboration and public participation will be emphasized. A coordinated, island-wide Food Growing Plan will be brainstormed and coordinated with all participants. Public hearings can be helpful to introduce the concept, hear concerns and identify key players. Several Grow Centers around the island are envisioned that could have soil amendments on hand, that would also send information links by email to participants or hand out information fliers to those without computers.

At present water is too expensive for most people to consider gardening seriously with County water. This is an institutional problem, not a physical one. The demise of sugar has opened up the opportunity of abundant irrigation water in selected areas. With County and State cooperation this irrigation water could be made much more accessible to the average resident. The Dept. of Water (DOW) accepts invoices of the sale of food grown as evidence of serious farming, and reduces the cost of water to the farmer. This agreement must be better defined and confirmed. Hand-driven wells and solar- or hand pumps are feasible in bottom lands for small growing operations.

Kauai is blessed with abundant essential minerals for growing food. The black sands of Hanapepe and Waimea now clog the river mouths and are a “problem” that is a vital nutrient solution for farmers. They supply potassium (K), Phosphorous (P), silica (Si) and many other trace minerals. Coordination with County and State departments is necessary. Government could identify coral sand around the island that could be removed without harming beaches. It provides calcium (Ca), necessary to balance soil alkalinity (pH). Huge volumes of coral sand have accumulated for millennia in sand dunes from Polihale to Kekaha. Some could be removed from west of Kekaha without destroying any beaches. It would be a cost-effective use of tax dollars for the County to truck sand to the (four?) Grow Centers around the island.

Nitrogen (N) is available abundantly on Kauai in the form of green plant matter. All leguminous plants fix N. Especially shredded albesia or other leguminous trees from tree farms could be sold as a by-product and also made available at Grow Centers. Bill Cowern of Hawaiian Mahogany Farms is planning to make albesia hay available in bales. Green matter can be supplemented with agricultural grade spirulina from the Big Island. Grasses make superb green manure. Composted green waste and chips are available from the County or from private vendors.

One of the main obstacle to making organic gardening feasible island-wide is the convenient availability of all soil amendments and supplies in several locations.

Now that we know the power of community organizing, we can use it to promote organic farming. There are many aspects: Demo Gardens, work day demonstrations, word of mouth, talking up the convenience and health benefits of organic food. Etc.

All these proposed initiatives will require considerable organizing, coordinating and collaborating. We are dealing with resources, education/information, residents with individual interests, various soil and climate types and two governments with various departments that may or may not coordinate well with each-other. It is essential that a coordinator be found who can represent the interests of the residents who want to grow organic gardens anywhere on the island. It would be considerably more efficient for one individual to coordinate between departments and sources, rather than each potential grower to reinvent the wheel by doing this work individually. The coodinator would be the hub of the food growing incentive and would function as the primary initiator of activity to bring about food self-sufficiency. 

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