By Saleh Azizi, HPU Kalamalama v33, no 12, Dec 07, 2009
"There are two dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace."
Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac
None of us own a farm, but even though we are students, and even though most of us live in town, we can have a garden. There is now a group of active students at HPU who believe they can produce breakfast (and lunch and dinner) without owning a farm, by producing lettuce, tomatoes, and other organic vegetables in newly created Sustainability Gardens at HPU's Hawai'i Loa Campus. Spearheaded by members of Amnesty International Club and the Green Club at HPU, these student have found that working in a garden can improve island self-sufficiency, create a model for a sustainable campus, link organic and local food practices, and provide a venue for self-reflection and social bonding through nature. Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a growing global trend, and students at HPU are in the initial steps of transforming an aesthetically beautiful piece of lawn at the north end of the campus into a more diverse and productive food system based on harmony and symbiosis, and you too can participate!
Gardening and sustainability an idea of localized economy "as if people mattered"
This is all about growth natural growth that is! Economic growth and recognizing our individual dependency on consumer goods is part of why it makes sense to garden: reversing trends. Globally and in Hawai'i, signs such as the 2008 financial crisis show us that over-dependency on trade and finance could one day leave us stranded and hungry.
Local food production has the potential to initiate healthy lifestyles as well as inexpensive organic local produce. Recent revolutions in mixed agricultural systems such as urban agriculture, permaculture, and agro-forestry suggest that modern gardening can enhance coexistence between urban human settlement and agricultural food production in a way that mimics the web of interlinked relationships found in nature. However this is no news to Hawaiians, whose ahupua'a, a traditional land unit extending from the mountaintops to the sea, provided a valuable mix of produce, livestock, and fish as far back as 1200 C.E. Combined with the practice of ho'oponopono (how to correct prior error), Hawaiian wisdom can guide modern urbanized consumers back to nature, gardening, and enhanced self-awareness. The garden itself, as much as the practice of gardening, provides lessons in harmony, symbiosis, and diversity as well as increased functionality and productivity. This contemporary Hawaiian practice of interactive gardening combines best practices in components such as organic vegetable farming, mixing fruit-trees plantation and honey bees, composting, water catchment, and fish farming activities each component feeds back the success of another.
Gardening, daily balance, and reconnection to nature a meditative approach
By taking care of others, we become more aware of taking care of ourselves, a truism about people as well as plants, according to Sustainability Garden Coordinator Raymond Murdock. Murdock, a student athlete with the HPU basketball team, explained that taking care of plants by giving water and sun is like taking care of a baby, and both make us start paying attention to taking care of ourselves. This selfless focus gained from gardening is then reflected in our relationship with other as we become more receptive to people's emotions and energy levels a more gentle and sympathetic rather than destructive approach to human relationships.
As a student athlete being "on-top" and sustaining your best condition can be a stressful and on-going project, Murdock adds: "The older I get, the more I realize that success has more to do with your day-to-day habits than with hours in the gym. Diet, down-time, and school or professional work these activities, I think, can have a stronger impact on performance than the weight room."
Murdock has been working with the gardens for five weeks and feels a difference on the court, especially since some of the physical work done on the garden mimics some of the weights and basketball drills on court. Murdock finds that gardening keeps his mind more focused on the task ahead, keep injuries down, relieves stress, and rewards activities that will yield future harvests. "Having access to fresh fruits and veggies is key to keeping a healthy and fit body and a balancing exercise for your mind, body, and soul." Murdock said.
Being situated in the natural beauty of the HPU Hawai'i Loa campus can also power a reconnection to nature by calling participants' attention to natural events such as changes in sunshine, clouds, and rainy weather. When it is sunny, the plants need water for well-being, we give them water. When it rains, the plants need less water. This helps individuals distinguish between naturally occurring weather changes and the many superficially freezing classroom on campus.
The natural setting also suggests how we should view scale, speed, and light. Our new sense of scale helps us see ourselves as but a part of an overarching, interlinked web of natural relationships especially when compared to the mighty Ko'olau Mountains whose cliffs tower above the campus. We also revise our sense of speed, realizing that the natural growth of plants takes time and should not be rushed. And we start defining light differently, too, as we realize that we, like the plants we grow, completely rely on sunshine for success.
A new individual approach to scale, speed, and light can balance our interaction with nature. We become less enthralled with domination over it and more aware of our role as genuine custodian for the benefit of natural growth.
How to get things done - progress, budgeting, volunteering, and donations.
The work of gardening is slow, takes time, along with physical labor, and requires adequate funds. At least, that is what Steve Hendricks, Physical Plant manager on the Hawai'i Loa campus, said. Hendricks needs a group of committed students to show that this pilot garden project has longevity. Then expansion of the plot can be considered. Hendricks added that when it was first founded, the Hawai'i Loa campus used to allocate much of its land for gardens, chickens, cows, and fruit trees which supplied 50 percent of the food in the dining halls.
So far, in the garden, the work has mainly been physical and focuses on establishing the quality of the soil. Little planting has been done at this phase. However, in just three weeks, a small group of students have transformed a piece of lawn to soil ready for planting. Five-hundred dollars was initially budgeted for necessities such as seeds, soil mix, picks, shovels, gloves, planting tables, and manure; however the community donated all the materials. In addition, trash piles of soda cans found deep underground yielded close to $100 in recycling profits.
Last week, as this issue was going to press, plans were to plant germinated vegetables and fruit trees. The next session will be the harvest. The community will be invited to share the fun, so watch these pages!