Cultivating Seed Savers in Hawaii

The role of education is pivotal to advancing the ethical development and stewardship of seed for future generations. Here at OSA we continue working to put the control of seed back into the hands of the public. Our educational outreach spans regional public workshops, production of educational materials available for free download from our website (visit our Publications page), our national biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference, working with farmers on Participatory Plant Breeding projects, and creating materials to cultivate new educators throughout the country. We’re excited to see our partners hard at work spreading seed saving knowledge throughout the country.

Below is an update from Lyn Howe at the Hawai’i Public Seed Initiative (HPSI), a project focused on helping Hawai‘i’s farmers and gardeners to select, grow, harvest, store, and improve seed varieties that will thrive in Hawai‘i, about their most recent Seed Basics Workshops for Farmers and Gardeners.

Having just completed the 3rd of our five-island “Seed Basic Workshops for Farmers and Gardeners” on Maui, May 19th the Hawaii Public Seed Initiative (HPSI) has to date educated 110 individuals interested in seed saving.

The first day of the Maui workshop took place at Noho ‘ana Farm, a spectacular setting with Mauna Kahäläwai  standing majestically behind us in an ancient lo‘i kalo  (taro grown in flooded fields) which been under kalo cultivation from the time of the original  people.

40 workshop participants gathered in this lush setting to learn and gain a practical working knowledge of seed growing, botany and biology, plant selection, growing taro, seed harvesting, cleaning, and saving.  Our knowledgable young host, Hokuao Pelligrino, a Hawaiian cultural practioner, highlighted the day with an educational tour of the kalo loi and the history of the surrounding lands in this ahupua‘a  or ancient Hawaiian land division.

All of our Hawaiian islands have very diverse climatic differences easily experienced by traveling relatively short distances. This was stongly reflected in day 2 of our workshop which was held in Kupa’a Farm in Kula, upcountry Maui, which is Hot and very dry. This was an excellent opportunity to discuss strategies to account for differences in elevation, weather patterns, and rainfall, plant selection and a “hands-on” opportunity to harvest and clean seed. Day 2 ended with a class exercise to demonstrate methods for establishing sland seed networks and the contact list and 2 days of networking at the workshop was the important first step in this process.

A delicious organic lunch of foods grown at the farms we were at was prepared each day by a local chef, further demonstrating the possibility of creating simple, healthy and delicious meals while mentoring island self-sufficiency.

Our workshops offer an optional farm tour on day 3 which took us to The Maui Farm which provides farm-based family-centered programs that teach life skills for self-sufficient living using the farm as the most important model. It was exciting to see that several people from the workshop signed up to volunteer at both the The Maui Farm and Kupaa Farm to help learn  better growing  and seed saving skills.

All participants on each island are given a very extensive seed saving manual and the same 2 types of lettuce and tomato seed to trial and report back on. This can be used as a method to compile data on the success of these seed varieties for the different climatic areas of each island and an introduction to growing plants to seed and successfully saving seed.

Comments form the workshop reflect  the success of the Hawai ‘i Public Seed Initiative in this effort;

“Knowledge is power”

“Mahalo, I plan on passing this knowledge on to our visiting woofers, an average of 30 to 40 a year.”

“Loved getting new seeds, plan to save and collect more seeds now.”


Person to Person – Seed to Seed – HPSI is beginning to make a difference .

Our next workshops are scheduled for Molokai in August  and the Big Island in October.

You can find more information at our website

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