Exhausted after what seems like three straight weeks of pure madness (a friends wedding on the Big Island, Eat Local Week, work, work and work), I crawled into bed last night and couldn't help but think about what fellow Eat Local campaign committee members' James and Alani had said at our wrap up meeting just hours earlier; so few people in this world will ever have the opportunity to follow their passions and, on a small or a large scale, to be a part of something truly meaningful in their lives. It seems to me that giving of ones self, ones time, is often seen as simply that; giving. Being a part of this campaign was a good reminder that it's much bigger than that - because so much is also received in return - ultimately, the process and the experience is a tremendous gift to everyone involved.
I have been deeply blessed to have been a volunteer for Kanu Hawaii over the past few years, most especially during the last few months as one of the volunteer chairs for their second annual Eat Local campaign. It's no secret that since the close of last years Eat Local week, the crazy foodie in me has been pining for a position on the committee (and a seat at all of our restaurant partners' tables) - which ended up bringing life to the phrase "be careful what you wish for," in a way I never thought possible - and only in a good way I might add. In light of this, I am embarrassed to say (but will honestly admit) that I was less than diligent about eating 100% local during the week of the challenge. I have no mouth watering all-local recipes to share or reviews of all-local meals prepared by others; nor do I have any really good excuses for why this is the case. What I can share is a unique perspective from the inside of this campaign looking out, which I can only hope will be somewhat interesting and valuable on some level.
We started our planning over decadent dinner parties (which quickly had to be abandoned because there was more eating and chatting than actual work happening), during which we laid down plans for what was going to be one of Kanu's biggest campaigns to date. Over the next few months our team of volunteers reached out to and worked closely with people, organizations and businesses within and surrounding the food industry here in Hawaii, building a web of support and a pub of information intended to create awareness of and support for food sustainability here in Hawaii.
Our intention was, over the course of a week, to tell the story of harvest to table - to bring light to the issues and topics that surround the concept and the vital importance of food sustainability: land, water, economics, labor, energy, agriculture, vendors, restaurants, organic vs. non organic etc. etc. No easy task and with many moving parts, Eat Local week was jammed packed with so many wonderful events, opportunities, stimulating information and conversations, and of course, amazingly delicious food - so much so that you would have needed at least a month (and a diligent exercise plan) just to take advantage of it all.
Call it fate, serendipity, or just plain coincidence, what was most inspiring (and honestly somewhat surprising) to me was that everyone we reached out to as potential partners of the campaign was already on the same page and of the mindset that creating a healthy and sustainable food system in Hawaii is of the utmost importance, and that it is going to take our collective effort to achieve it. A trendy movement no doubt, to have everyone from the usual suspects like farmers and Whole Foods to the not so obvious such as Zippy's echo the same sentiments about not only their short but also their long term plans, investments and priorities in regards to Hawaii's food industry, gave me the distinct sense that although we have a long way to go, there is most certainly a light at the end of the tunnel.
Friend and fellow Kanu member Brandon Hayashi said it very poignantly following a particularly fascinating panel discussion mid-way through Eat Local week; "Once you have your eyes open it's hard to close them." It is my hope that if we achieved one thing during Eat Local week, that we opened people's eyes - because without knowing what's out there, who you're walking alongside, and where you're going, getting there is almost an impossible task.
I know this has been the case for me personally, because as much as I have always shopped at the farmers markets and have fun tromping around in the mud at Ma'o farms during their GIVE days, I was completely unaware of the depth to which the simple phrase 'Eat Local' really runs. It is now with a new-found curiosity and profound respect for the entire spectrum that is Hawaii's food industry that I will strive to take action and responsibility for my personal kuleana of it all. We were at a Hawaii Farmers Union meeting at Ma'o Farms and during our tour we were shown a structure of meticulously stacked rocks from the fields of the farm. Our guide explained that it was traditional to have such a structure (the name for it escapes me, forgive me), a place to come throughout the day and say thank you, offer a prayer, to refocus on what's important. For me this place is my kitchen, and so I will start there. Because there is no greater joy or satisfaction for me than preparing a meal and sharing it with the amazing people in my life; and doing so with the added intention of an outcome beyond a satisfied belly makes it that much sweeter.
My gratitude for all of the people I worked so closely with and the experience of being a part of this campaign is bigger and extends further than words can possibly express. Mahalo for everything - it has been a truly meaningful experience, and for that I am incredibly fortunate.
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