Kaua‘i Island (Oct 2012)

On October 23 and 24, 2012, Malama Kaua‘i invited HRDC to present Seeds of Hope to the island’s South/West side and North shore communities.



The screening at the historic Waimea Theater was received by a crowd of approximately 60 people, many of whom represented local community organizations and county agencies, including the Kekaha Community Garden, Kaua‘i County Council, Kaua‘i YWCA, the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau and CTAHR among others.

A discussion panel and forum was held after the film, moderated by Keone Kealoha, Executive Director of Malama Kaua‘i. Speaking on the panel were: Dr. Carl Berg of the Kaua‘i Surfrider Foundation and Blue Water Task Force, Jerry Ornellas of the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, filmmaker Danny Miller and HRDC board member Robyn Pfahl. The audience posed a number of questions and raised a variety of issues including:

  • The need to better integrate rural and urban communities and food systems
  • Efforts to incorporate local foods into public school lunch programs (a project spearheaded on Kaua‘i by Malama Kaua‘i)
  • The need to grow a new generation of farmers and offer agricultural training/education for young people
  • Importance of upholding legislation that preserves Ag Land for agriculture, not development
  • Diversion of water for Seed Industry and other uses on Kaua‘i and recent drops in water levels and water quality, both inland and marine
  • The complexity of the GMO issue on Kaua‘i and the importance of working together to find solutions rather than polarizing the community

“If the farmers can make money they’re going to farm. It’s a matter of profitability, and until we can cross that hurdle it’s going to be difficult. Personally I think that farmers should be rich. People talk about an oil shortage, but if we have a farmer shortage things are going to get real serious. Kaua‘i can be food self-sufficient, and given the potential productivity of our lands we should be feeding the city of Honolulu. If Richard Ha can do it on the Big Island, there’s no reason we can’t do it on the island of Kaua‘i.” —Jerry Ornellas, Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau

“What we need to do in our farming communities is produce people who want to choose farming as a career, not do some hotel or white collar job, but see the real possibility of making a career out of farming. We do this through our education system and some other community support systems and each of the county’s need to help cooperate to include those types of activities as a way to bring children up to view farming and gardening as something of value.” —Neil Brosnahan, Community Volunteer

“I think it’s very poignant how you didn’t make the GMO issue black and white, but rather showed the two sides of the coin. The community tends to be really polarized about GMO on Kaua‘i, you either work for it or you’re against it. You really see this on the West Side, where there are people involved in the community garden who work for the [seed] companies, and they very much care about and have helped us get this community garden going, so we’re very careful about not alienating anyone but rather trying to bring people together. I think we need to focus on how we build our communities and figure out how we can work together, despite our differences in background and opinion. But really it’s about compromising and hearing each other, and that’s something that we’re trying to do at the community garden. It’s really going to take an attitude of ‘how can we work these things out together.'” —Diane Shoemaker, Executive Director of the Kekaha Community Garden



The following night, October 24, a film screening and forum discussion was hosted at Hanalei School on the North side of the island, to a crowd of approximately 70 people. Local farming, educational and government institutions were represented, including the Waipa Foundation, Hanalei School, Hawai‘i SEED, Kaua‘i County Council and the National Tropical Botanical Garden. After the film, a panel composed of HRDC board member Robyn Pfahl, filmmaker Danny Miller, taro farmer Chris Kobayashi, Dr. Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden and Stacy Sproat of Waipa Foundation discussed the issues brought up in the film with the audience. These included:

  • Value of tropical staples and traditional diets to restore community health
  • The shift from conventional to organic farming and the challenges in this process
  • The need to redefine our legal frameworks to include sustainability measures as basic citizen rights (“a Food Bill of Rights”)
  • The value of reaching children at a young age and educating them about the value of aloha ‘aina and healthy, locally produced food
  • Reviving traditional methods of food production and consumption, such as hand-pounded poi (Daniel Anthony and his work promoting kalo culture)
  • Environmental and human health risks posed by pesticide use for GM crops

“There are some great individuals out there who are teaching people how to make boards and stones and return to a taro-based diet. There are so many different taro varieties we’ve forgotten about because of the commercialization of poi, and now a lot of the Hawaiian varieties are starting to come back. This is a really powerful thing, because by teaching people to have their own tools for poi production, they’re discovering that they need the taro. More people are wanting to grow taro today, not so much the commercial presents that are present in Hanalei, but young farmers, independent ones, Hawaiians, those who want to grow it organically.” —Chris Kobayashi, organic taro farmer

“There’s a movement afoot called the Rights of Nature, setting in motion sustainable agriculture as our preferred form of agriculture, and showing that other forms of Agriculture could be considered illegal because nature inherently has a right to exist and be healthy. What it also speaks to as a movement is community rights over corporate rights. The voice of the community, the local municipality, needs to have a say in defining their future. All seven Kaua‘i County Council members have been contacted about this ordinance, which is essentially a Food Bill of Rights for Kaua‘i that speaks to access issues, pesticides and sustainable agriculture.” —Keone Kealoha, Executive Director of Malama Kaua‘i

“The idea that it’s harder to reach older kids really touched me, because I’m a teacher and see how hard it is. When you start distributing this film to the schools it would be good to have a shorter version, and a offer a forum for students to give their feedback and take that information back to the politicians. It really is about the next generation.” —Audience member and school teacher

“At Waipa we’re getting kids addicted to kale salad. Over 6,000 people came through Waipa last year and we work with over 100 families from this community including kids from K through 12th grade. A lot of these families aren’t in a position to think about buying organic and local, so we just try to infiltrate their minds without them knowing it. In Hawaiian culture they say you get to people through their stomach, so if we feed them and it tastes good, they remember, then they go home and ask their parents for kale salad and their parents call us for the recipe.” —Stacy Sproat, Waipa Foundation

“GMO and heavily sprayed pesticides are a major issue on Kaua‘i. These over 15,000 acres of GE test crops already and they are expanding further east, which are using millions of pounds of pesticides on our land…it will be very hard for us to farm sustainably or organically if our soils are being poisoned with chemicals, especially if this is happening right next to our communities and schools. I feel we can’t talk about a sustainable agricultural movement if these issues are not addressed. I completely agree with going local, but how we’re growing the food is what makes the difference.” —Tiana Loranio

“After speaking with so many incredible people and hearing all these stories, I see that Hawai‘i has the potential to be a model for the whole world and show it how to live sustainably off the land.” —Danny Miller, filmmaker and director of Seeds of Hope

“To me the biggest obstacle is money: how do we get even one acre without signing our lives away? How can we get land to farm sustainably?” —Audience member


Deepening the dialogue about the issues facing Hawai‘i’s rural communities.

Engaging diverse stakeholders in the conversation about the future of our rural lands.

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