Farm Series: Cultivating the Land for the Future
Growing up with aloha is a responsibility we all need to share. Although aloha isn't quite what we are accustomed to in these trying times of social distancing and masks, we can still share aloha among our ʻāina and how we grow our food. Through this pandemic, a few of us got together to learn what is important right now and what we can do to make a difference in our community. What does food sustainability look like and how can we impact our community? In collaboration with the Bolton ‘ohana, we have been working on the ʻāina or lands of Kahului. This ʻāina is located on the ahupuaʻa of Hōlualoa. We have allowed our youth to volunteer, learning to plant an agroforest and being trained by a great mentor Craig Elevich. This will teach youth from the community how important it is to know where our food comes from. The youth also learn patience of watching a fruit tree grow to hope to reap the benefits of various exotic fruits, that perhaps they may never otherwise get the opportunity to taste. This will also give them the education of learning to grow, market, and perhaps prepare meals. We also are blessed to be able to practice on the lands we mālama as well.
Well, this is what 2021 looks like. A small crew of us have been growing an agroforest on the Kona Coffee & Tea farm, starting with an acre we named Nā Hoʻomaka Hou or New Beginnings. This is where we have been planting coffee, along with fruit trees and vegetables in between the coffee, for diversity. We have ʻōhiʻa ʻai or mountain apples, a variety of bananas, avocados, longan, cacao, cherimoya, as well as a few varieties of kalo. We have also planted wāpine or lemongrass, uala, and radishes, as well as an array of medicinal plants such as two varieties of ʻōlena, which is yellow and the black turmeric, along with the māmaki, and couple varieties of ʻawa (kava). There are many other vegetables we’ve planted and experimented within the agroforest such as tomatoes, kale, corn, Manoa lettuce, and cauliflower from seeds that we have acquired through the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I must say, we have had a success rate of 85%-90% growth! But like all chances you take on a farm, the elements and animals (including peacocks) are a bit hazardous to our crops. We believe that we all have a purpose and so do they, so we holomua or move forward if some plants are destroyed.
Taking on a unique way of not only being a kanaka mahi ʻai (farmer) is using the ʻāina as a place where youth can come to learn the methods of farming. Our crew consists mainly of ʻōpio or youth of Hawaiʻi Island and they come to learn how to plant through moon phases of the Hawaiian almanac.
We use the moon phases to decide what we plant and when, this also teaches our ʻōpio how to read the moon, when to plant as well as fish like our kupuna once did. They learn to know when not to plant but prep the ʻāina for the next moon phase that will produce crops, catch, or even energy of emotion.
During this pandemic, we have come to learn that the psychological effects of stress are the same in our ʻōpio as it is in adults. We both struggle through change. Socializing, learning online, staying away from close friends, and not being able to be a kid has taken its toll in the past year. This time on the farm allows them to learn to be future kanaka mahi ʻai, to work hard for what goes into your body, to know where your food comes from, and how to do it in the most natural state that Akua (God) has given. The rain falls on their faces, but we believe that rain creates the cleansing of our spirit when facing a rough day. They can spend time in the natural elements of the ʻāina that will one day will provide food and other resources for our community.
—Text and Photos by Kaulana Nā Pua kumu hula, Pelena Keeling.