In our modern era of endless conveniences and luxuries, we take bananas for granted, but until about 1900, few Westerners knew of their existence and even fewer had eaten them. In fact, bananas were the first tropical fruit to be mass produced for North American and European markets. Imagine those first bananas exhibited at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, wrapped in foil and offered for ten cents apiece! On the opposite side of the world though, in Southeast Asia and New Guinea, villagers had been improving local banana landraces for millennia! Indeed, the seedless banana was one of the world’s first domesticated food plants, at least seven thousand years ago, in the New Guinea highlands.
There are many options for supporting homegrown food in addition to growing your own food. Here is a summary of some of the best ways to eat locally and sustainably grown food.
Buy or trade for homegrown food from your neighbors. Neighborly exchange of food is an integral part of local culture in Hawai‘i, inspiring a sense of cohesive community.
Volunteer to help a neighbor with their garden. Sharing work with neighbors empowers them and thereby benefits the community as a whole.
Co-owner, Adaptations, Kealakekua, South Kona
Tane Datta and his wife Maureen began homesteading as a move toward self-sufficiency in 1980 and expanded their gardens into a small farm enterprise over the next few years. Adaptation’s mission statement focuses on the need to engage in ecologically sound community and land development based on organic farming, alternative energy, and complimentary medicine. Datta has strengths in horticulture and has natural entrepreneurial instincts, while Maureen has strengths in building a business and has excellent people skills. Through the years one of the keys to success has been avoiding overextending their resources, including no significant debt. Instead, they built their business by reinvesting profits back into their company.
Located in the Hawaiian Acres area of Puna mauka, Mountain View Growers is a 2-year-old enterprise that has already developed a large following. They have a regular clientele at natural food stores in Hilo and Pahoa, and at three different area farmers markets where they sell out early.
Jim Riley was living in Alaska and working in construction when he decided he wanted to live and farm in Hawai'i. To this end he started researching ways to grow strawberries that would be economically feasible and decided that growing them hydroponically in a "Verti-gro Pole System" (see http://vertigro.com) would be the best. The vertical towers yield a higher amount of berries in a smaller amount of space with the least amount of wasted effort and no 'intrusive visits' from slugs and snails.
Owner, Island Naturals
Develop strong marketing skills: become a spokesperson for your products
Russell Ruderman is committed to purchasing and marketing local food from Hawai‘i’s farmers. The focus on local food blossomed over the last six years, according to Ruderman, when a steady stream of farmers and food manufacturers began approaching the store and asking him to carry their products. Despite the increase in local food production, Ruderman is surprised at the number of gaps remaining in Hawai‘i’s local food production.