PRINCEVILLE — Ross and Robin Robinson usually spend Thanksgiving with family, but for their first holiday after moving to Kauai, the couple has decided to put food on someone else’s table.
“We’re new to the island from Washington State,” Robin said. “It’s just the two of us and we don’t need a whole turkey and everything to ourselves, so we decided to volunteer.”
The Robinsons connected with Malama Kauai’s Village Harvest group, which spent Wednesday gathering produce from orchards and gardens in the island community.
Produce harvested Wednesday went toward some of the free community Thanksgiving dinner events around the island, as well as to charter schools and other locations.
The idea started in 2014, when Megan Fox and a few others associated with Malama Kauai noticed a grapefruit tree that was surrounded by unwanted fruit on the ground.
“We were taken aback because we’re so focused in increasing food production and being a support for farmers,” Fox said. “So we thought, how can we use all of the food that already exists?”
Since then, the group has garnered volunteers and has gathered more than 14,000 pounds of produce from the properties of community members, some of whom are elderly and can’t harvest their own produce.
Wednesday morning, Village Harvest began at a citrus orchard in Princeville where previously the group has harvested more than 2,000 pounds of oranges in under two hours.
The fruit will go to seven different recipient sites.
“They’re going to set up a juicing station at Anaina Hou for their Thanksgiving, so that’s one of them,” said Tuula Perry, event coordinator. “We’ve got five different volunteers out distributing produce. I couldn’t do it by myself.”
Randy Roe had a homemade tree-picker with him on Wednesday, and he was using a ladder as well to get at the oranges at the top of the tree.
Sharing produce is a way of life for Roe, who said he often will post announcements of the overflow from his starfruit tree online for community members to see.
“My tree feeds my whole block, and I have some of my starfruit in Hanai Market and Papaya’s,” Roe said. “These healthy trees give so much.”
Other residents who own fruit trees and other produce plants are in the same boat, he said, and there’s always more than enough to go around on Kauai.
“When it’s in season, often people’s trees are falling over. They’re so full of food,” Roe said. “There’s so much abundance on the island, it only makes sense to share and swap.”