KALIHIWAI — Meryl Abrams always wanted to have a garden of her own where she could grow vegetables for her family.
So, nearly a year and a half ago, the Princeville resident began leasing a small plot of land for $10 a month on the one-acre Regenerations Seed Center community garden within Wai Koa Plantation in Kalihiwai.
Since then, a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs, including lettuce, kale, cotton, eggplant, basil, sage, mint, onion, fennel, papaya, artichoke and tomatoes, have taken root on the parcel of ground 20 feet wide and long.
“When I’m able to eat what I’m able to grow, it’s very inspiring,” Abrams said as she pulled weeds from her garden on Sunday. “Eating stuff straight from the garden just has a better feeling, knowing that you grew it, and gives you that sense of empowerment and pride. Like anything, knowing that you worked for it has more value.”
But the most difficult part, Abrams said, is maintaining the burgeoning garden, which can become overrun by fast-growing weeds.
To help give her garden a boost, Abrams and more than 200 other fellow gardeners exchanged advice, seeds and plants on Sunday at the doorstep of her garden during a biannual community seed and plant exchange hosted by Kauai Community Seed Bank.
“It’s just inspiring, because when there’s an event here, it makes you want to work on (your garden) more,” Abrams said. “It’s a perfect place to have an event because there’s a lot of space and there’s a lot of gardening examples for people to look at — there’s good examples and there’s also things to not do.”
Regenerations International Botanical Garden Director Paul Massey, an event organizer, said the plant and seed exchange, now in its 12th year, is geared to provide all gardeners with natural, unmodified seeds so they can cultivate their own fruits, vegetables and seeds.
Visitors also toured the one-acre community garden, two-acre food forest and future space of a two-acre Regenerations Seed Center slated to open next year.
The center, Massey said, will be the new location for the Kauai Community Seed Bank and allow volunteers to grow, process and teach people how to grow their own island-adapted seeds in collaboration with the Hawaii Public Seed Initiative.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., who was among a small group of people who toured the food forest, said a lot has changed since he first toured the area in December, when it was a vacant plot of land.
The food forest, which is maintained by the Regenerations International Botanical Garden, Malama Kauai and the Sanctuary of LUBOF, now includes 15 varieties of plants, 88 long-term fruit trees and 22 varieties of bananas, Massey said.
“This is great,” Carvalho said during a blessing speech to seed exchange attendees. “This is another great example of a possibility that can work.”
Kalihiwai resident Claudia Herfurt, who picked up some seeds for her son during the exchange, said the need for people to grow their own foods is becoming increasingly important, since many people consume unhealthy foods.
“When you look around, people don’t look healthy anymore when you travel around America,” Herfurt said. “We need to eat good food and we need to connect with the earth again. City folks don’t have a chance but we on Kauai do, because once you’re connected to this earth and this wonderful creation, you can’t be fat, eat unhealthy foods or be sick.”
Abrams, who also picked up some seeds at the event, said gardening is also critical in maintaining a sense of independence.
“It feels nice to know that you’re able to sustain yourself, if something were to happen — it’s the whole sustainability thing at a very local level,” Abrams said. “It feels really good to be able to sustain yourself. I’m not saying that I could completely survive on what I have in my garden, but at least I could partially survive on that.”
For more information, visit the Regenerations International Botanical Garden website at www.ribg.org/rbg.
• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.