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Building local, sustainable food communities on Hawai'i Island
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Here is one of the challenges for civilized humankind: to learn (again!) from the animals and the plants, rather than use them like dead matter or inanimate machines for our needs and ends. They can be sources of inspiration for adaptive techniques and technologies; they are keepers of a kind of quiet wisdom we are only beginning to appreciate.
I’d like to make a bold statement that the majority of commercial farmers in Hawaii don’t practice crop rotation. By not rotating our crops, we create our own problems that can be the cause of own demise. Monoculture is the simplest form of farming because you only have to understand all aspects of one crop, so you can grow it well if you choose, but in the process, you create insurmountable problems for you, the farmer, and your crop.
There’s a beautiful trio playing in the woods. It's a native trio that has been here a long time. The players are the māmaki shrub (Pipturus albidus), the koa tree (Acacia koa), and the Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea), or pulelehua. If you have the right conditions, you can invite them to your garden, especially to encourage the pulelehua, whose numbers are diminishing, to thrive on the islands again.
For many local folks, chile pepper water is an indispensable addition to a great local feast, and can add pizazz to meat, fish, and soup dishes. There are many variations of this condiment combining water, shoyu, different kinds of vinegar, and even garlic with lots of chiles.
Below is a letter I wrote to a Hawaiian homesteader several years ago. He was interested in farming, but for some reason he had a difficult time understanding what he needed to do in order to create a farm business, and also wasn’t realistic about his goals. He was looking for solutions such as setting up a farm to teach others how to farm without having a basic knowledge of farming, or networking with others to get his farm started when he didn’t have any production.
The coconut, niu, is a uniquely life-giving tree for humans, a mainstay if you live near a tropical coast. It produces the only seed that we can open to drink vital water, eat nourishing nut-meat, and even make healthy oil. The coconut palm’s fronds, trunk, and fruit all have many uses. “Every part of the plant plays its role in the Polynesian lifestyle,” says Momi Subiono, a Hawaiian ethnobotany educator from Kona.