In an effort to improve, increase, and promote biodiversity, the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative works with communities, farmers, and gardeners statewide to select, grow, harvest, store, and improve seed varieties that thrive in Hawai‘i.
With more than 90% of the fruit and vegetable varieties offered by seed companies in the United States in 1900 no longer available today, open-pollinated seed and genetic diversity are being lost at a rapid rate. The Initiative supports education, research and community projects related to promoting and increasing seed diversity and improving food security throughout the islands.
In 2010, The Kohala Center conducted a baseline assessment of island-wide interest in seed saving and community seed-saving capacity. This survey revealed the need to develop knowledgeable seed growers, increase seed education, and create a local source of quality seed. A two-day, island-wide Seed Symposium, “Hua Ka Hua: Restore Our Seed,” was held in 2010 in Kailua-Kona, funded by the USDA’s National Organic Program; the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management; the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (UH CTAHR); County of Hawai‘i; and the Keauhou-Kahalu‘u Education Group of Kamehameha Schools.
The success of the Symposium resulted in the formation of the Hawai‘i Public Seed initiative in late 2010. This unique partnership combines the knowledge and expertise of both public and nonprofit entities creating a collaboration of seed leaders from the UH CTAHR Extension, Regenerations Botanical Garden on Kaua‘i, and The Kohala Center.
Over the years the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative has held workshops on Hawai‘i Island, Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, and Moloka‘i, bringing together hundreds of farmers and gardeners throughout the islands for education, information sharing, and network building. In 2103 and 2014 the Initiative has facilitated three-day “Train the Trainers” workshops on Hawai‘i Island to further develop seed leaders. These advanced trainings prepare dedicated individuals to organize seed networks, educational programs, and seed-sharing events on their respective islands.
Mini-grants from the initiative have supported research and educational projects.
In 2014 an independent group of small farmers, under the direction of the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative, formed the statewide Hawai‘i Seed Growers Network. After two years of variety trials, which focused on adapting seed to Hawai‘i’s many microclimates, the Network now offers a diverse selection of seeds at hawaiiseedgrowersnetwork.com. This group continues to grow, share, and expand its knowledge and capacity.
Funding from the Ceres Trust supports the Initiative’s capacity to develop community seed networks and conduct education, research, and outreach programs designed to provide greater food security for the people and communities of Hawai‘i.