Guerilla Gardens = Food Sovereignty

SUBHEAD: Project proposal to help home gardeners get started on Kauai.
by Arius Hopman, on 17 March 2009

[Author's Note: Aloha Gardeners: Do you know anybody who might be interested in launching Phase One of this initiative? I.e. Bobcat, dump truck, shredder, tiller owners on all sides of the island (four staging areas). Your feedback, changes and additions appreciated at this Draft stage of the project. Mahalo for your kokua.]  

Stage One: Join the Fun
Image above: Setting up urban guerilla garden in Los Angeles by Dave Bullock

Let’s start a Revolution! Seriously, if you have been checking the news, you know the world is in a financial meltdown and oil has peaked and will get pricier. We are particularly vulnerable in the middle of the Pacific since we import 90% of our food. You can protest: Grow your own. Some produce is 10 days old and costs $6/lb. Protest. Grow your own!

• New shoots are sprouting out of the rubble of the collapsing empire. Seeds planted in the counter culture revolution of the 60’s and 70’s (fi. organic farming, ecology, women’s rights, alternative medicine, alternative schooling, renewable energy, sustainability) are growing and now ready to bring in a system with more integrity, sustainability and aloha.

• Let’s celebrate this new opportunity! Finally we have unprecedented motivation to take back our food source, grow the Garden Island true to it’s name , keep our precious dollars right here on the island and grow organic food that is much fresher, healthier and tastier than the week-old stuff we import.

 • This can be our new age of food sovereignty, our back yard revolution. The promise is self-reliance, empowerment, freedom and less economic stress. Family-sized gardens provide much more than food. They reconnect people with the aina and collaboratively with each-other, they are fundamentally creative, beautiful (add the flowers). We turn off the TV and get outdoors; great exercise, healthy food. If you are growing your own, you might as well go for the very best: go organic! Gardening could again become an essential component of education, both in families and in schools. Don’t give fish to the hungry; teach them how to make and throw a net: Sovereignty.

 • How do you grow say a revolution? Well, from the bottom up. Guerilla Gardening is the People’s movement. “When the people lead, the leaders will follow”. That is how democracy is supposed to work. “This is our time”. We are the ones who can make it happen, the door is now open.

• Of course, coaxing food out of the ground does not just happen. It means getting down and dirty. There are specific steps that lead to success, which the akamai farmers and kupuna can show us. There are local, natural soil amendments here that we can learn to collect (for instance: nitrogen-rich green mulch, “salt and pepper” sand [lava/coral] for minerals, good-kine wood chips to create humus and a spongy soil, agriculture-grade spirulina for protein and trace minerals to feed soil bacteria and maybe also organic fertilizer. They are mixed in the right ratios. Then you can learn what plants work best for your location. But to make it simple, you don’t even need to reinvent the wheel and do all this stuff yourself.

The Project:
Imagine calling a professional organic farmer and saying: “I have 100 square feet of space in which I want to plant a Guerilla Garden, please help. Whether you have good or poor soil does not matter. Your farmer comes along with a truck full of the pre-mixed soil amendments, a rototiller (and a drip system if you request it). All you need to grow a good garden is placed where you want it and tilled under (no-tillage is an option). Soil amendments can also go into pits for food trees. “Every roof: two food trees” (rain catchment).

• Next, the farmer gives you instructions, both verbal and written, and you are on your way to becoming a successful gardener. The farmer may also have a shredder in tow to shred up all your garden waste. That can also be tilled in, go on the compost pile or serve as mulch on top of your new beds. The cost for the delivery of about two cubic yards of soil amendments and the labor is estimated to be $400-$500. Your garden should pay for itself within the first year or two...and these gardens just get better with time. Such services could be ongoing and generate many jobs. Get in touch with us. Our goal is 1000 gardens the first year. You can help make it happen.
 • Of course you can also collect your own soil amendments when you learn where they are, and we can show you. The amendments would probably include a bale of highly nutrient-rich albesia hay. (I bet Bill Cowern of Hawaiian Mahogany Co. didn’t think he was growing food when he planted all those albesia trees).

 • You will have plenty of support and company in your new endeavor. People now are already eating from community gardens around the island, and there will be many more. There are at least 50 professional organic farmers who can share their mana’o with you, and countless websites to consult. The Kauai Farm Bureau and the Agriculture Extension Agency are standing by, and the Kauai Community College has classes and a well run demonstration garden that you can join for a nominal fee, which you make up by taking home a big bag of fresh organic produce at the end of the weekly training/work morning. If you rather have someone else grow your food, connect with several CSA’s (community supported agriculture) on the island. Malama Kauai is a place to start. There are also several commercial kitchens for value-added products, one, Malama Ohana, is starting up again in Hanapepe to support the food revolution.

 • What next? Phase One: The step from concept to reality. We need to find the professionals around the island with trucks, shredders, Bobcats, staging areas and time, who want to join the fun. A bright new star has come forward to help co-ordinate this effort that could grow into placing 1000 gardens or more each year. She will have a full time job getting all the pieces in place. If you are interested in participating with this First Phase of this Guerilla Garden initiative, please return email, call Arius at 335-5616 or leave a message. We are looking for another kind of “green manure” too: seed money to start up the project to the point where it sustains itself. 

We are assembling a matching grant, with $1.000 pledged already. In Phase Two we will start taking names of people who want gardens. This is pono work: work from the heart. Nobody will get rich, but we will have fun, learn teamwork, meet neighbors, watch our gardens grow and eat some of the best food on the planet. We so lucky live Kauai!
• About the Author: Arius Hopman started the Taos Solar Energy Association, NM in 1974 and ran it for 6 years. TSEA had weekly solar radio shows, articles, demo workshops, slide shows and progress reports. During that time over 2000 solar devices were developed (mostly passive solar adobe homes) saving $1,000,000 in energy annually, saving the pinon-juniper forests. If Taos can do it with solar, we can do it with food on Kauai! ----Twelve years ago Bill Chase and Arius organized the day long Sustainable Development Now Conference that attracted over 110 enthusiastic Kauains. Several spinoffs from the conference are still bearing fruit. Every initiative helps. After this conference the Kauai Farm Bureau had a sustainability meeting at which Mayor Kusaka famously said: “Sustainable, sustainable, we keep hearing that word, I guess it is here to stay” (she wasn’t joking). Arius holds two US Patents in appropriate technology.

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