More islanders growing own food

About 300 people gathered in Kapa‘a on Sunday to exchange seeds and plants to grow more of their own food.

In a state that imports 90 percent of its food, farmers, backyard gardeners and food activists at the biannual Kaua‘i Community Seed and Plant Exchange said more island residents are growing produce.

“Organic farming generally is growing at 15 to 20 percent a year, and the  small family farm is coming back,” fruit tree farmer Ray Maki said.

It’s even possible to make a living as a small farmer, he added.

“Our  next mission is to bring down the cost of organically grown food to the level of non-organic food,” Maki said.

In a tough economy with jobs becoming scarce, “What better way to use your time than to grow your own food,” said Jill Richardson, a co-founder of the Kaua‘i Community Seed Bank.

The seed bank partnered with the Children of the Land Center for Polynesian Culture (Na Keiki O Ka ‘Aina) to host the afternoon-long seed and plant exchange at the Children of the Land Center in the Kaua‘i Village Shopping Center.

Marta Whitlock, who raises vegetables on a four-acre farm, said, “We raise our own food right here and eat it here. It’s fresh and organic, and it saves energy and is good for the environment.”

Michael Wise,  a professional gardener and a part-time farmer, said he has noticed more small-scale farming under way on Kaua‘i, too.

“There are more and more small family farms all over the island,” Wise said.

Blake Drolson is active in the group GMO Free Kaua‘i, a co-sponsor of Sunday’s event. His concern is that some of the chemicals used in genetically modified agriculture on the island might find their way into local farms and gardens, he said.

 Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.  came to the exchange to speak in support of sustainable, healthy agriculture. The event also featured music and a Hawaiian blessing.

The Kaua‘i Community Seed Bank is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays at the Regenerations Botanical Garden, which recently moved to the Children of the Land Center.

Seeds are free in exchange for volunteered time spent cleaning or sorting seeds.

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