Growing Food In Ka’u

By Yvette Slagle, Outreach Assistant

IMG_2258I stand quietly and look at the garden…the jalapenos and basil, cilantro and parsley, a gourmet salad mix that boasts an array of greens, purples and reds.  There are marigolds, sunflowers, calendula– and of course, nasturtiums.   We decided this time around we should do a succession of Provider Beans, a variety of bush bean that is true to its name!  Spinach, kale, rainbow chard, pumpkins and plenty of tomatoes.  My two year old son smiles with pride as he holds up a bright red beet.  He enjoys helping in the garden–planting seeds, digging in the soil and most of all finding earthworms!  Over the last year, I have truly come to appreciate and greatly cherish my time in the garden with my family.

We live in Waiohinu, in the district of Ka’u on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our home is perched among an orchard of avocados, citrus, coffee and macadamia nuts.  The Pacific Quest adolescent program is about 3 miles away.  At this elevation, approximately 1200 ft, we are able to grow a variety of food.  We enjoy cooler nights, which allows us to grow more Mediterranean plants such as lavender, kale and heirloom tomatoes.  There is a perfect balance of rain and sunshine, along with deep, nutrient rich soil.

Feeling the satisfaction of the daily harvest in the garden, I’m inspired and curious to see who else is growing food in Ka’u.  While searching online, I found specific information pertaining to Ka’u. Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch in Naalehu writes, “Ka’u: Rural, Resilient Relevant.  This article provides an overview of life in this remote region of the Big Island and the shift that is taking place in our community after the sugar plantations shut down in 1996.  I also found She Grows Food, a website that provides stories, projects, recipes and even a Hawaii food map.  Founders Lisa Asagi and Dan Nakasone describe their commitment “to developing and supporting solution-based projects that move us toward more resilient and local food systems in Hawaii and everywhere.”  As I watch my two year old son digging in the soil and plucking Sun gold cherry tomatoes from the vine, I realize what it means to be a part of a solution, and that the concept of “nature as healer” can be as simple as creating a garden in your backyard.