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Building local, sustainable food communities on Hawai'i Island
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If you are not already growing food, then starting small and close by the house is the best strategy for success. Many people get excited about gardening and they put lots of effort into a relatively large area, only to be overwhelmed with maintenance such as weeding, watering, replanting, etc., eventually becoming frustrated and abandoning the project. Starting small allows you to learn what works for you in terms of crops, methods, and your ability to keep up with the work. As you get some experience under your belt, you can expand on the area with a better sense of your limitations. It also allows you to experiment, without risking large losses of time, space, or money.
By day, Bernard Matatumua-Vermeulen is a Soil Conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) in Kealakekua—and in his spare time he is one of the green thumbs behind a food forest project at the Kona Seventh Day Adventist Church.
The church is adjacent to the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook and is located in the kaluulu—a 18 mile-long breadfruit grove that was for centuries an abundant food producing region in Kona.
For 30 years Uncle David Fuertes was the agriculture teacher at Kohala High School. In its glory days the ag program made $25,000 per year by growing and selling its own products. The program emphasized entrepreneurship and leadership skills, as well as agricultural skills. They had a greenhouse, certified kitchen, four acres of vegetables and animal pastures. Many of Kohala’s leaders today were students who were mentored by David in the Hawai‘i Future Farmers of America (FFA) program—including High School principal Jeanette Snelling, and Adriel Robitaille, the new Ag teacher. After attending college it was Adriel’s dream to come back to Kohala and to revitalize the ag program. That dream is now becoming a reality.
Getting to know the environment where you live is the best way to begin the process of growing food. Knowing about your soil, rainfall, elevation, wind direction, and other environmental conditions will help determine what to plant and what might need to be done to improve conditions for plants and animals.
Soils vary tremendously across the island, from sandy clays to coarse soil in lava rock. A soil test can help determine the nutrients available in your soil. The USDA also has detailed soils maps that can help determine your soil type.
Part 2 of a 2-part series. For Part 1, click here
This part continues the presentation of in-depth information on nitrogen-fixing and dynamic accumulator plants.
Diversify the Leaf Litter to Aid Nutrient Cycling
Research has shown that diverse forms of litter on the forest floor aid nutrient cycling in the litter layer and topsoil. Diverse litter provides for better decomposition and diversity in the decomposer food web. Therefore, using various kinds of mulch and planting plants that provide diverse kinds of litter will improve self-renewing fertility.
An Open Letter to the Farmers Market Community
At farmers markets all over the state I see pricing structures on locally grown fruit and veggies that just don't compute.
When I started a small farmers market adjacent to the Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative on Napoopoo Road in the mid-1990s, avocados were $1.00 each and bananas were 5 for $1.00, as that was roughly what the prices were in grocery stores. Back then my Kaiser insurance was $680/month and gas $2.23/gal or so. My insurance is now $1300/month and you know what gas has gone up to. I'm sure you all have stories like this.
Prices at grocers for avocados have gone from $1.99 to $3.99 at KTA for imported avocados, and at some stores from $0.69-$2.45/lb for local avocados. Why haven’t farmers market prices gone up too?