Farming against the odds

KAPA‘A — Who in their right mind would envision a garden with at least 50 different kinds of vegetables and fruit trees facing Kaua‘i’s windward coast? After all, the salt borne in the Eastside’s relentless onshore winds is not the best ingredient for a successful garden.

The answer is quite simple: Two guys who understand enough sustainable gardening techniques (actually, a heck of a lot of them) to prove it’s quite simple to grow your own food pretty much anywhere.

“The goal here that we’re shooting for is to create a mini-ecosystem,” said Paul Massey, who together with Ken Lindsey envisioned a “coastal permaculture food forest garden” experiment to show Kaua‘i what is possible even in the “most-degraded ground.”

Within a few weeks, Massey and Lindsey have completely changed the face of a barren plot of land adjacent to the Kapa‘a Friendship House, facing the coastline between Kealia Beach and Kapa‘a Town. The garden is now thriving with dozens of different vegetables, showcasing lush green food everywhere.

The “mini-ecosystem” was made possible by the federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant to promote health awarded to the Kaua‘i Community College, where both sustainability entrepreneurs teach.

On Tuesday morning, Lindsey and Massey were working the land under a blistering sun, planting fruit and nitrogen-fixing trees. But they usually get a lot of help from the folks at the Friendship House.

The project puts Friendship House clients who have some kind of mental illness to work the land, where they learn skills that may ultimately help them land a job in the agricultural industry.

And the harvest, of course, feeds the clients at the Friendship House.

“They just started to harvest from the garden and are already having a bounty of produce going into their kitchen,” Massey said.

Every aspect of this project is a distinct piece of non-conventional, innovative thinking.

It joins efforts of for-profit and non-profit organizations, a trend that funding sources have been seeking lately, according to Massey.

That’s part of how Massey, director of the nonprofit Regenerations Botanical Garden, and Lindsey, director of the for-profit Theobroma Farm, got involved in the project.

On June 19, there will be a Hawaiian blessing of the garden, from 10 a.m. to noon, complete with refreshments and a tour of the garden.


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