On the evening of June 11, the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, in partnership with the Haleiwa Farmer’s Market and Waimea Valley state park, hosted a screening and discussion of Seeds of Hope in the park’s Pikake Pavilion as part of its “Taste of Sumer” film series.
Over 80 people attended the screening, which followed the region’s popular weekly Thursday afternoon farmer’s market. Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation Program Director Natalie McKinney introduced Alan Murakami, who presented the HRDC’s background and motivation in producing the film. Murakami was followed by Pamela Boyar, co-founder of the Haleiwa, Ala Moana and Kailua Farmer’s Markets, who has over thirty years’ experience in developing healthy food systems by strengthening relationships between producers and consumers. Boyar emphasized the need to support local farmers and food production by protecting agricultural lands and making a conscious decision to consume locally-grown foods and food products.
After the screening, Murakami led a Q&A session in which audience members touched on a variety of topics. One was the difficulty in accessing farmlands for existing farmers who are currently struggling to make ends meet, as well as the many younger farmers who are is trying to enter this field. Murakami stressed that Hawai‘i’s State Constitution includes a large number of laws meant to protect ag lands and water resources, adding that the burden of responsibility unfortunately lies with citizens to educate themselves about these legal provisions and demand that elected officials uphold them. He mentioned the Ho‘opili and Koa Ridge cases as examples of the tensions between urban development and rural, agricultural uses that will only continue to appear if there is not a strong counter-movement to protect rural lands, as well as the fact that a large percentage of Hawai‘i’s high quality ag lands are still on O‘ahu. With the ‘Ewa plain being increasingly slated for development, the North Shore region is now one the most important concentrations of high quality ag lands on the island. Douglass Cole, Executive Director of the North Shore Trust for Public Land and one of the lead organizers of the August 2, 2013 North Shore Food Summit was in attendance.
Other audience members brought up the question of GMOs and the experimental seed industry, which also has an important presence in the North Shore region. Murakami explained that the HRDC film committee spent long hours discussing whether or not to include this controversial issue in the film, but finally decided to do so because of the importance of the seed industry as a central player in Hawai‘i’s agriculture. He added that there was a conscious effort to present both sides of the debate in the film, with industry representatives as well as critics, so that the audience could arrive at its own decisions. Murakami emphasized the organization’s role as a convoker of diverse perspectives in the dialogue about food and agriculture, and said that its goal was to “create a safe and inclusive forum for discussion rather than taking sides.” Several audience members expressed their appreciation of this inclusive approach to the GMO issue, given the fact that most public debate has tended to be confrontational and divisive. One young woman brought up the question of Kamehameha Schools’ position as leaseholder to GMO companies like Monsanto, given that they have a responsibility to protect the interests of Native Hawaiians.
Overall the audience’s response to the film was very positive, and the discussion demonstrated that this community is very conscious of its place as one of the last remaining outposts of rural lifestyles and agriculture-based economies on the island of O‘ahu. The results of the audience survey also revealed that many people value agricultural education and school garden projects as a key strategy to protecting these interests for future generations—a strategy that the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation is successfully incorporating in its work with schools around the state.