On Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, Seeds of Hope was screened at the University of Hawai‘i –Manoa’s beautiful Hālau o Haumea, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, thanks to a collaboration with the student-run group Food (+ film).
Aiko Yamashiro, one of the event organizers, introduced the screening as a collaboration among different campus groups including the university’s Creative Writing Program, the Kamakauokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, Native Voices and Oceania Rising, in addition to Food (+ film) and the Hawai‘i Rural Development Council. “Our hope is that this offers an opportunity for people from different departments and areas to come together and practice ‘aina momona or abundant land,” said Yamashiro, inviting guests to enjoy donations of fresh organic fruit, taro huli, seeds and snacks. Two Creative Writing program students also shared poetry.
After the film screening, a group of over 40 individuals gathered in the Hālau o Haumea for a discussion circle featuring speakers Alan Murakami, chair of the board of the HRDC; Kaui Sana, MA‘O Organic Farms farm manager; Albie Miles, director of the University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu’s Sustainable Agriculture program; and Daylin Gibson, a graduate student at the UH Richardson School of Law. The discussion was moderated by Food (+ film) organizer Annie Koh.
Murakami described his exposure to the challenges faced by rural communities statewide including the pressure to urbanize and the need to devise alternatives forms of economic development. These experiences form an important part of his work with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and his motivation for leading the production of “Seeds of Hope” as a vehicle for creating support for the rural lifestyles and culture in Hawai‘i.
Sana explained how she grew up in the MA‘O Farms farming program as an intern and described how important the experience had been for tapping into her leadership potential. “I never thought I’d be a farmer, but as I went through the internship I realized that it’s not new,” she said. “There’s this ancestral knowing within all of us about how to tend the land, and once you get onto the ‘aina, it comes naturally; you see that especially in the youth.” She went on to discuss how important it is to break out of the “box” of low expectations that many young people grow up with in Wai‘anae, and emphasized that “for a lot of us it’s about tending to the ‘aina but also tending to the people. We need to tend to the youth. Young people get it. We just need the opportunity and we need trust.”
Gibson, whose work on GMO labeling and intellectual property issues with other students of the Richardson School of Law, said that it was “inspiring to watch people on the ground who are trying to make change. I loved how the film put the GMO debate into the larger context because there has to be a place for dialogue.”
Miles, who is starting a new program in Sustainability at UH – West O‘ahu, praised the film for covering so many issues and showing how broad the range of questions involved in our food systems is. He noted that “it’s going to require a very diverse group of people working across different sectors of society to create a change. At UH – West O‘ahu, we have an opportunity to create a new multidisciplinary, experiential and participatory hands-on educational program so that we can develop the skills to act and begin to change the existing structure.” Miles also mentioned the importance of working with other institutions to create these systemic changes, including MA‘O, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools and others.
Audience comments were very appreciative of the film, with its clear focus on finding solutions and its balanced approach to divisive issues such as GMOs. One Kane‘ohe resident mentioned that including our pollinators/bees in the discussion about Hawai‘i’s food security is key, and several people brought up the fact that the GMO question is part of a global context in which definitions and education about terms such as “food security” and the responsibilities of a land grant university like UH still need to be developed.
One woman from Makakilo named Helen brought up the need to not only grow a new generation of farmers but a generation of “whole food lovers,” since people in recent generations have been educated to equate processed food with progress.
There was some discussion over why Big Ag is doing GMO research in Hawai‘i, to which Miles responded that the large research companies can isolate their breeding without having to worry about highly mobile pollen, as well as the perfect climate for getting four breeding cycles per year instead of just one.
Another audience member was struck by how many different facets the film brings up and how this mirrors the number of facets of society that the solutions would also impact: “The best chance lies within our young people, and giving them the confidence to express their potential.”
Charlene, a university student from Hawai‘i Island mentioned that it’s important for young people to be given the message that staying and taking care of their home is valuable, rather than leaving to go to O‘ahu or other parts of the country. “This film shows that the ‘aina reminds you how valuable you are,” she said, and encouraged people to think about “What is really valuable in Hawai‘i – for example, farmers are valuable.”
In closing Sana reminded the audience that, “There are many ancient ties to this issue.” Using the Hawaiian celebration of Makahiki as an example of how the host culture had structures for measuring the health of communities through their food production, she said that, “As we think about the future, we’re going to have to look back 200 years as well.”