Thursday, January 29, 2015

February 2015 Events & Contests on Maui

This is not by any means a complete list of events on Maui, but it's a good start. Check the links for changes in dates or locations.

ArT=Mixx: Masquerade, January 31st at the MACC, a FREE party for those 21+ and older. Words can barely begin to describe it. Here’s a blog about a prior ArT=MIXX event. (It's almost February!)

Superbowl at the MACC. February 1st. Who says the Maui Arts and Cultural Center is only for high brow art lovers? The MACC is offering two supersize screens, one inside Castle Theatre and one outside.  Food trucks will have munchies for purchase.  FREE!

Art lovers! Maui Open Studios is returning for 3 weekends in February. The opening event is January 31st. This is a way to meet artists in person, buy art, and visit the studios where they work. Here’s one Open Studios experience.

Labyrinth walks: The Sacred Garden of Maliko, between Makawao and Haiku, has started offering labyrinth walks on Thursday afternoons in addition to the monthly full moon walk. Labyrinth walks can be a meditative, life changing experience, and are very safe (there’s no way to get lost in one).

This is a meditation style labyrinth.

Cultivating a Pono (Righteous) Death & Home Funeral in Hawaii, Upcountry Sustainability Event, February 2nd. 

Family Day at the MACC, February 7th – In celebration of the Schaefer Portrait Challenge at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, meet artists and paint a picture to take home.

Moonlit Movies at Sugar Beach. February 8th. Dinner and a movie.

Maui WordCamp February 13-15th. For your inner geek. For only $35, learn about the WordPress blogging format and social media, and hobnob with experts.  Learn to ask the questions you didn’t know you needed to ask.

Vagina Monologues, February 8th – Eve Ensler’s landmark play about the feminine experience, in the form of dramatic monologues by women, has been performed all over the world. This is a fundraiser for Women Helping Women.

VDay Maui, February 15th, a dance fundraiser and celebration for Women Helping Women. 

Maui Whale Day. February 14th. Parade, hoopla, and fun. Celebrating the humpback whales on Maui.

Maui Chinese New Year Festival, February 21st. Sometimes there are other festivities around the island, like this Lion Dance at Long's Drugstore

Art Affair, February 28th at the Hui No’eau – annual fundraiser for Maui’s visual arts center.

Maui Short Story Contest – Write a Maui short story of 1500 words or less. Deadline: March 27th.

Ocean Vodka Cocktail Contest – for creative mixologists: create a drink using 2 ounces of Ocean Vodka. Finalists are flown to Maui to compete in a mix-off. Airfare and hotel lodging will be provided for finalists. Deadline: February 28th.

TIME-SENSITIVE: EdVenture photo contest – Submit your photos to win a $100 gift certificate for continuing education classes at UH Maui Campus. Deadline, Friday, January 31st

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why do we have so many #&?! power outages on Maui?

I’ve never had this many power outages before moving to Maui. Not on Oahu, where I grew up, not on the East Coast, not in Kauai, not even in Russia during a year abroad.  Where I live on Maui, on the north shore, it seems we get outages once a month. DH thinks it’s closer to twice a month. He also likes to complain about Maui having the highest electric rates in the country.

Let’s see – January – we’ve had two power outages. The first one affected many parts of the island and Molokai. A windstorm after New Year’s Day that metaphorically blew aloha shirts across the island, caused more inconvenience to a larger number of people than the non-hurricanes we had last year. Hurricane Iselle hit Ulupalakua hard, but spared the rest of the island and for most of us, was a non-event. This windstorm knocked out power at my house for 24 hours, Friday night to late Saturday night) and in Olinda, we found out later, friends lost power for two days. They lost $700 worth of fish in that time. Luckily we had a power inverter that ran the fridge from the car every few hours.  It wasn’t perfect, but we didn’t lose much.

Surreal aloha shirt that's trying to fly.

On my street, the upper half lost power the first night and got power back the next morning. The lower part of my street got power back one day later. According to our neighbor, this was the longest power outage on Maui in 20 years.  Usually, we get these mild-mannered Clark Kent power outages – they even apologize afterwards for the inconvenience.  Typically, they last a few minutes, to maybe a few hours, and often occur in the middle of the night with little effect. The second power outage in January lasted just a few hours thankfully. A few days later, the lights flickered off completely twice, but we didn’t lose power.

This power inverter connected to the car battery managed to keep the fridge mostly cold.
It needed constant monitoring because it was at the edge of its capacity.

By the way, I am forever replacing light bulbs in our house, even the compact fluorescent ones which are supposed to last for years.  The electricity seems to flow erratically, with power surges and dips. One of my lights has to be adjusted frequently because it is either too bright or too dim at night. A surge protector is a good item to protect one’s expensive electrical items. Better yet, get more surge protectors. Why stop at one?

So why are there so many #&?! power outages on Maui?

This is SPECULATION based on grains of truth:

1. Maui has mostly above ground (read: exposed) power lines so that any car accident caused by any drunk driver or druggie on crystal meth can take out a power line.

2. The wind. Maui has more wind than the other islands. So when the wind shakes the lines or the jungle overgrowth along the lines, the power can fluctuate or stop.

3. Those huge eucalyptus trees. When there’s a good rain, the branches can swell with water and crash to the ground without warning.  The strong wind can also knock down other trees, so Olinda with all its big beautiful trees along the main road, is particularly susceptible to longer outages.

Tree cutter at the top of a huge eucalyptus tree.

4. Maybe our lines are old and not as maintained as they could be. This is my “old age” theory.

5. All the hippies live in my neighborhood and they climb up the poles in acts of anarchy and protest. If you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you in the desert.

6. Variation on the Jungle Overgrowth Theory. For example, bamboo along our neighbor’s fence grows along the power lines. The bamboo moves a lot and may disrupt the lines. Also, if the bamboo is not trimmed carefully, the lines can get damaged.

How to avoid power outages?

Live in Pukalani. For some reason, friends in Pukalani were hardly affected by the first January power outage. Live in a newer neighborhood with newer infrastructure. Or get solar energy installed with Haleakala Solar or another good company, and you will no longer be at the mercy of Maui Electric. In the meantime, get more candles!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Encounter with the Strange Hen

The four chickens brazenly sashayed into our yard. Three white chickens, two of them like silky powder puffs with blue eye shadow, one white chicken with a few brown speckles, and a ruddy brown chicken strolled up the recycled tire pathway from the gulch and started pecking at our postage-stamp-sized lawn. Our lawn must have a sign, “We have chickens here! This lawn is pre-pecked! Come and eat!” Meanwhile our three part-time free range hens cackled under the house.

Four hens that showed up in late December from the gulch alongside our house.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Maui a Literary Wasteland?

"Can't you tell? I'm working on my next book." 
Is Maui a literary wasteland? Is conversation on Maui shallow? Is it all about weather, surfing, land prices, or rescued baby goats? Is there more than the daily grind or the daily wave? Some people say that you can’t have an intellectual conversation on Maui, that it’s not like New York or (fill in the name of your favorite big city), but if you have a hankering for poetry events and literary discussions, they do exist. Though some events ebb and flow with the tides. Here's a guide to resources and events for writers, readers, and lovers of words on Maui:
  • Maui Live Poets Society has readings at three libraries:  
    • Makawao Public Library, 3rd Wednesday of the month, 6:30 pm*
    • Wailuku Public Library, 1st Thursday of the month, 6 pm*
    • Lahaina Public Library, 2nd Tuesday of the month, 6:30 pm*
(*Times and dates are subject to change, so contact the appropriate library or visit their Facebook page for updates.)

Mahalo to Pat Masumoto, a local poet and artist extraordinaire, for sharing this information about the library poetry readings and to Nancy K. for inspiring this post. Pat also hosts My Mama Monologues, a poetry and storytelling tribute to mothers around Mother’s Day. Since she doesn’t produce this event every year, look for announcements in early spring.
  • The Collective Underground is a newer group of poets and writers who recently had a book release, and may have additional events and readings this year. I’m embarrassed to say I completely missed their book launch party, but one can’t make every event on this island.
  • Poetry Slams are frequently held at the restaurant Casanova the last Thursday of the month, at 9:00 pm, It's been on a hiatus but will start up again in February. Side note: Poetry Slams were very active the first few years that I lived on Maui, and were held monthly in Wailuku, moved locations a few times,  and then I lost touch with the group that ran them so I was delighted to hear that they had been running all along, and then disappointed to hear that they haven’t happened in the last month or so. So I’m not sure what 2015 will bring.
  • Maui’s own writer Toby Neal sometimes does book signings at our local stores. Keep up to date with Toby Neal’s Facebook page. Toby is social media savvy, so her twitter and Facebook are very current.
  • Another great writer is Jill Engledow, who just published a book last year, which I haven’t had a chance to read. She hasn’t done a lot of book events that I’m aware of, but I think it would be a great idea for her to do so.
  • Maui Film Festival showcases interesting films for their First Light film screenings in December/January and for their summer film festival, some of which are very literary, like “Even Though The Whole World is Burning,” the film on W.S. Merwin or the film about Jack Kerouac's life. 
Bill Keys' street poetry set up.

  • Koa Books is a Maui publisher which organizes some events at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, including the one on Georgia O'Keeffe.  By the way, many stimulating events are held at the MACC so I recommend signing up for their email or checking their calendar frequently.                             
  • Shannon Wianecki, one of my favorite writers. writes articles for some of the local magazines like Maui No Ka Oi or Hana Hou. I missed her big event last year, but she has an entertaining twitter feed. 
  • The Maui Writers Conference used to be an annual event, had some setbacks, then was re-engineered as the Aloha Writers Conference in 2013. It did not take place last year, but may happen again in the future.
  • Talking Story is a collaborative playwriting project. For more information, contact Pat Masumoto.
If you know of any additional poetry or literary events and resources, please comment here, tweet me, email at mauijungalow(at)gmail(dot)com, or post on Facebook, or Google+.

Many mahalos to Pat Masumoto for additional suggestions!

Some upcoming events in 2015 you'll want to know about:

Terry Tempest Williams, January 19th, Maui Arts and Cultural Center. 
Maui Fringe Festival, January 23rd - January 25th, Iao Theatre, Wailuku.
Hawaiian Island Land Trust Buy Back the Beach Benefit Lu'au, January 24th, Lahaina.
ArT=MIXX Masquerade, January 31st, Maui Arts and Cultural Center.
Maui WordCamp, February 13th-15th, University of Hawaii, Maui College.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Baby Goat Adopts Maui Couple

To go where no goat has gone before.
On a bright and sunny Maui day, when palm trees swayed in the wind, whales cavorted in the ocean, and surfers flirted with waves, a kid was born on the rocky south shore of Kanaio*. Not a human kid, but a goat kid, a baby goat. This baby goat had a sparkle in his eye, an impish grin, and a healthy set of lungs.

Despite being very young and fresh out of the womb, he wanted to be an explorer goat. He had never heard of Star Trek but got this idea to go where no goat has gone before.

What a beautiful world this was! The blue sky, the sun in his eyes, oooh… and rocks to climb on and jump on and jump down from and jump back on. Rocks were fun! He could jump up and down from them all day! Wee! This is fun to be alive! Oh, and what was that thing in the distance where the big blue thing on top meets the big blue thing below, in a straight line? It’s so far away. He wondered if he could get closer to it.

Rocks to climb and the blue thing above and below.

Now he wandered a little farther from the herd and a little farther yet. An older goat noticed him moving away and yelled, “Hey you stupid kid, get back here! You might get lost! The world is a dangerous place!”

“But I’m exploring the world! The world is a wonderful place! I can climb rocks and kick my legs and jump down rocks. And there’s something sparkly in the distance. It’s kind of blue, then it sparkles and there’s a line all the way at the end on the other side of the world where the two blue things meet.  I want to see where it goes!”

The blue sparkly thing.

“Look kid, there’s nothing there to see. You gotta stick with the group here. I told you to come back and I’m telling you again. Come back now, or we won’t look out for you.”

“I just want to see the sparkly blue thing and where it goes…” The older goat wandered back to the herd. And the baby goat looked far into the distance, where the sun glinted on the ocean, luring him closer and closer.

“I’m almost there! Maybe I can just jump over.” So the baby goat jumped out from the rock towards the blue shimmering thing in the distance, and he landed, not on the sparkly blue thing, but down on some soft, crumbly things. His feet sank into the sand and he lifted one up, puzzled that the sparkly blue thing was still far away from him.

Adventure is in the air.

His feet kept shifting in the ground, as if the ground was loose and swallowing his feet. But he could lift them out and saw the rocks up top.  He was also closer to the blue sparkly thing. He moved closer to it and it was attached to a snake, a strange white snake that kept changing its shape, shifting and moving. There were no eyes, but the snake moved in and out towards him, curling and moving forward. And it made a sound, “Whoosh… whoosh.” The snake was long and then short, then it would disappear and reappear into the sparkly blue thing. He got close to it and his feet felt strange. They tingled and felt cold where the snake had touched it.

The strange white snake.

“This is fun,” he thought. “I bet no goat has ever been here before.”

Then he thought, “Wonder where mom is. I’d like some milk.” He called out, “Hey mom! Mom! I’m hungry!”

No answer.

“I guess I’d better go look for her. I’ll just jump back up to the rock. C’mon legs, you were made for jumping!”

Goats are made for jumping.

Up! Up! His goat body moved up and came back down again. “Okay, I gotta try harder next time.” Up! Up! And he came back down again on the same sand, with the waves lapping at his feet.

Keep trying. Maybe I can do it from the other side. So he ran to the other side of the cove and jumped up and still found himself on the sand. I’ll try again. So he ran to the far side and jumped up.

He was stuck. “Help! Help! Come get me! I’m down here and can’t get up!”


I’ll be louder, he thought. “Help! Help! I’m hungry!”

And he kept bleating. Maybe the old goat was right.

Then, after what seemed like forever, he heard a noise from up above.  Oh, there’s something on the rock! It’s not a goat. It’s too big for a goat! Oh, it’s a stick, it’s a big tall, walking stick! And it has eyes at the top, and it’s on two legs. It looks really funny! Well I don’t care if it’s a stick or a goat, maybe it can help me get out of here.

“Help! Help!” he bleated.

But the funny two-legged stick looked at him and walked away.

“Oh no! Don’t go away! Help!”

He jumped up again, trying to reach the rock and he couldn’t.

Life was awful. The world was terrible. He was trapped. There was a cold white snake thing on one side of a big blue thing, and on the other side was the high rock that he couldn’t reach. He should have listened. Why did he have to explore so much?

Then he heard more noises from the top of the rocks. The baby goat squinted. It was another stick creature, on two legs, with eyes high up. There was a patch of fur above the eyes and the eyes looked friendly and sparkly. The stick creature started to move down the rocks.

“Help! Help!” he bleated. The stick creature climbed down and the baby goat rushed to meet the stick creature. “Oh thank you! Thank you!”

Kanaio was very thirsty after being rescued.

When Carol and Mac were out exploring Kanaio one day, looking for shells, they did not expect to come home with a baby goat. It was a quiet day and the only people they had encountered were Dana and Jerry, visitors from Oregon.

After parting ways, Dana and Jerry showed up again saying they had seen a baby goat that was trapped under a cliff.

Carol and Mac thought about it. Feral goats are a problem on Maui. They cause a lot of damage to native plants, farms and ranch areas. If they rescued the goat, they couldn’t simply release him into the wild, because there were no other goats around. Or the goats might reject him if they found him again. It could mean one more feral goat to cause damage. But they also didn’t feel right abandoning him to die.

Newly adopted baby goat.

Carol and Mac had grown up children, yet they had always wanted another kid. Though they didn’t realize it until now. So much for shell hunting! Mac scrambled down the rocks and became a daddy again.

They named the goat Kanaio because that’s where they found him. As Mac recalls, Kanaio Boy daGoat was really young, maybe just a day old. He still had his umbilical cord attached. Mac rigged up a bottle and sock to give Kanaio some water, since he was very thirsty.

Next stop: Dels, the farm and ranch store on Maui. Baby goat kids need baby milk formula and something to suck on. Carol and Mac fed their baby kid every two hours out of a baby bottle.

Del's, offering supplies to take care of a baby goat.

Mac researched goat farms to see if anyone would take Kanaio when he gets older, since it might be challenging to keep him in a suburban neighborhood in Kihei. But goat farms like Surfing Goat Dairy said no, they can’t bring in feral goats with their domestic goats.  

"Can I help fix the washing machine?

“He’s really cute right now, but we know he’s going to get bigger.” Mac admits. Kanaio is small enough to stay on the lanai or even come in the house, but eventually he will need an area in the yard or something even bigger. Mac jokes, “If he’s old enough to hump my leg, he’s old enough to wait outside.”

Mom and kid.

In the meantime, Kanaio is having an adventure and going where no goat has gone before. Kanaio gets to play with cats, who think he is a very ugly cat. Besides, what cat with any pride would wag its tail? 

"What a strange looking cat!"

Carol and Mac take their baby goat to the beach, to visit friends, to Ho’okipa to watch turtles at sunset, to Nakalele Blowhole, and to Jaws to watch monster waves. Kanaio has even gone stand up paddling with a life jacket. 

Recently, Carol and Mac had to visit a veterinarian in Kula to get their baby kid castrated and dehorned and get a clean bill of health. At five weeks old, he is starting to find shoes very attractive.

"Can I eat this?"

Kanaio is also very popular and has groupies wherever he goes. Carol says, “We can’t go anywhere but it takes three hours to get there. Everyone wants to stop and take pictures, or hold him. Sometimes they don’t know what he is.” Mac laughs, “I tell them it’s our dog, but we fed him GMO food!” Mac says they’ve also meet a lot of local people who have raised goats, or have eaten goats.  “We keep an eye on him!”

Superstar Kanaio

"I just want to be loved."

"C'mon daddy, it's fun up here!"
"Maybe I'll be a life guard when I grow up."

"Have you hugged your goat today?"
If you’re on Maui, you might get to meet Kanaio and his parents. Pun alert! I kid you not. He’s extremely photogenic and is always happy to pose on a rock! You can also visit Kanaio Boy DaGoat's Facebook page to look at pictures and videos of his daily life. He’s one of the youngest celebrities on Maui!      

Another beautiful day in paradise. 
*pronounced “Kuh-nye-oh”

Photos are used with permission by Kanaio's parents, Carol and Mac. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The raging GMO controversy on Maui

At the airport in Kahului, a young California couple was telling me how impressed they were with Maui’s lack of environmental problems and thought that California could learn something from us. They had been here for a week. So I had to say something.

I started with sugar cane. “Sugar cane is burned nine months out of the year. It’s not good for the environment and I know people who have eventually developed breathing problems or asthma after moving here. It’s cheaper to harvest cane this way and there are economic forces behind it.”

Maui may look beautiful on the surface, but we have plenty of environmental concerns.

“Then there’s Monsanto.” Maui and parts of Hawaii are a hotspot for the testing of GMOs, genetically modified organisms, also known as GE organisms, genetically engineered organisms. In Maui’s lovely climate, three seasons of GMO corn can be grown a year and we’re not sure what the environmental and health consequences are from the chemical drift from the fields or from GMO pollen in the air or other effects from this kind of open field testing. It’s a big, hairy issue that has upset a lot of people. Read this article for more background on the GE controversy in Hawaii.

Various photos of the GMO controversy: from the Maui County Farming Ban Facebook Page, the Shaka Movement site, and a pic of a Stop Monsanto stop sign I took.

I wanted to tell them about other problems: run-off from construction into the coral reefs and how taro farmers are upset about water from streams that is being used for big agriculture, but I stopped. I apologized to them. “We have our problems too, but as you know, there are a lot of wonderful things about Maui. They just don’t want the tourists to know.”

GMOs have been such a hot topic on Maui that thinking about them makes me kind of wince. I know people on both sides of the controversy, people who are vehemently opposed to Monsanto’s presence in Hawaii, and people who directly or indirectly benefit from Monsanto’s money.

For years, some Maui residents have pushed for the labeling of genetically engineered food, so that people can decide for themselves what to eat if they know what’s in the food. Several attempts to pass a GE labeling bill have failed. Opponents say GE labeling would hurt the food industry. The latest GMO battle is happening now, in the final days before the November election. It’s historic. The first ever citizen’s initiative is on Maui’s election ballot. Approximately 20,000 signatures were collected, requiring that the public vote on whether or not to enact a GMO moratorium. This moratorium would affect three islands in Maui County: Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

The stakes are incredibly high. Monsanto pours a lot of money into Hawaii’s coffers. There is a lot of propaganda and rallying, and Facebook activity pro and con on this issue. There are TV commercials and radio ads, youtube videos, and telephone surveys. There are rallies and marches and concerts and fundraisers.

There are three unattractive aspects of this media blitz:

1.       Hatred and fear. This kind of propaganda and anger stirs up a lot of deep feelings and self-righteousness, name calling. Fear is running strong on both sides. Fear of losing, fear of survival, fear of speaking up.
2.      Mistruth. The media spin is calling it a ban against farming in Maui County. It’s a temporary ban on GE testing, which could be recalled by a 2/3 vote by the Maui County Council.
3.      Silence and repercussions. I personally know a lot of small farmers who would be very outspoken against GMOs, but have been told clearly that if they speak out, their organizations will lose County funding.  

Core issues going on at the heart of the GMO debate.

The most predictable thing about controversial environmental issues is that the debate rhetoric is the same: pitting “jobs” vs. “the environment.” As if they are mutually exclusive. How about a world in which jobs and environment can be said in the same breath, and be on the same side? It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but the debate is framed that way, over and over again.

If we could take away fear of survival, how would people vote or act? It’s very hard to vote against one’s self-interest or one’s paycheck. If you’ve ever quit a job to step into the unknown, you know what I mean. It’s also very hard to speak up if one’s funding is on the line. You can’t expect anyone to act rationally or thoughtfully if survival is at stake. You also don’t get any good solutions when people are in this much fear.

If we could take away the hatred, how would people act? Monsanto, whether they know it or not, is actively hated on this island and elsewhere for past and present actions. There may also be hatred towards anyone who is believed to threaten the local economy or jobs. If we could convert hatred to energy, we could power the island. 

I have four brainstorming ideas:
1. Environmentalists are often accused of not thinking of the short term: the immediate effect on jobs or the economy. The changes in policy can seem drastic. If there is a solid, believable plan for immediate job relief or economic assistance, a safety net, during a proposed policy change, people will have less fear. Much easier said than done.
2. Put workers and managers from Monsanto, environmentalists, farmers, and county officials in Outward Bound programs together. They will not be allowed to talk about politics or religion but have to overcome obstacles and physical challenges together. There was a program that put Israeli and Palestinian children in summer camp. At the beginning of the camp, the kids hated each other, but over time, they started to get along, and by the end of the program, they were friends. In the short term, Outward Bound for adults won’t cause a lot of immediate change, but in the long run, people will be able to talk to each other better, because they will have experienced being on the same side.
3. Monsanto could change its reputation. Monsanto has a besmirched reputation which you can google. It could do something beneficial for the environment and provide jobs, like restoring damaged cropland or cleaning up superfund sites. Monsanto has a lot of brainpower and technology, which could be channeled to large scale agricultural remediation and regeneration, i.e., agriculture that improves the soil and environment.
4. Environmentalists, in a concerted and strategic way, could buy stock in Monsanto to influence how this company makes money. Individual investors who dislike Monsanto’s corporate policy would not be recommended to buy stock, unless participating in a venture that pools money from environmental investors to create corporate change.

Is there anything that Monsanto, county officials, and environmental advocates can agree on? I don’t think anyone wants to stop farming or put farmers out of business. I think everyone wants there to be enough food for people. I think everyone wants people to have jobs and a healthy economy. How to get there is where the disagreement is. In a way, I’m glad not to be on Maui right now while the debate is raging. No matter who “wins,” there are going to be consequences and more questions. The resentment around this issue is not going to go away until people really feel like they can talk to each other and the current debate isn’t allowing for that.

I’d like to be able to say to the California couple a few years from now, that Maui has found its own path to economic growth that is aligned with the environment, that it is doing long term, intelligent planning. A Maui with vibrant local farming which provides jobs and has unique agricultural products. The question is, do you have to completely start from fresh, or can you have a gradual shift emerging out of the old world?

“Man’s present technology is not a mistake – it is not possible to make a mistake – rather it is an extremely primitive precursor of the incredible organic technology that it is man’s destiny to construct/create in this universe.” – Paul Williams, Das Energi

Upcoming Events:
Made in Maui County Festival, this Saturday, November 8th. First ever event to promote products made on Maui (and Molokai and Lanai).

Dine Out for Hospice Maui, November 11th

Hui No'eau Wailea Food & Wine Festival, November 14th


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Six reasons to go to the Maui Seed and Plant Exchange

Six reasons to go to the Maui Seed and Plant Exchange

Organic Farmer Gerry Ross of KupaĆ” Farms with the Mana Ulu taro variety.

For a gardener, visiting a well-run local seed swap is like winning a jackpot. If you have a green thumb or have ever harbored the slightest hope of turning your brown thumb green, the upcoming Maui Seed and Plant Exchange is worth your time. And it’s free! It will be held on Sunday, October 26th from 1 – 4 pm at the Hawaiian Canoe Club hale, Hoaloha Park on Kaahumanu Avenue, across from the Maui Mall in Kahului.

The seed swap in June was amazing. Organized by Maui Seed Savers founders Evan and Elan, the seed swap tables were piled with seed packets, bags of seeds, leaves, roots and stems. Plants that you’ve never heard of were there. Plants that are harder to get were there. Plants that other people have successfully grown on Maui were there.

Note: I am traveling and am very jet lagged, using a computer that I don't normally use with a very strange screen, so these pictures are not edited, and may be incredibly blurry, and are not organized. A future project will be to go back to this post and clean it up - one day. Thanks for understanding!

By the way, if you don’t have any seeds or plants to share, you are still highly encouraged to come to the event. If you have seeds or plants to share, please bring them, but if you don’t, it’s better for you to attend if you’re interested instead of staying at home because you feel you are not contributing.  You can always share in the future when you are able.

That’s part of the point of having a seed swap and plant exchange. It’s not just to trade seeds and get free seeds. It’s to find out what grows on Maui.
So six reasons to attend the Maui Seed and Plant Exchange.

1.   Free stuff
Woo hoo! Getting free stuff appeals to one’s inner freeloader. It’s always nice to get free things and to give things, not only because it saves money but it creates community and connections. You can pay to buy seeds, but it’s not the same as getting free seeds from someone who you have met and has a connection to that plant.

2.   Save time and effort
You can buy packets of zucchini seeds but they may not grow that well on Maui, or not that well in your particular micro climate on Maui. You might be at the wrong elevation, or have the wrong soil, or have too much wind, or too much dampness to have success with that particular zucchini variety. You could perhaps buy 10 zucchini varieties and maybe one of them will actually grow and produce zucchini, but it’s trial and error. Going to a seed swap gives you a chance to obtain seeds of plants that have grown successfully on Maui. At the June swap, there was a huge bag of corn seeds of a variety developed by UH Manoa, specifically for Hawaii soils and conditions. I have had a terrible experience with growing corn here. My plants got about a foot high and then keeled, due to the mosaic virus in the soil. Some people have had success growing mainland corn varieties from some random seed packet bought at Walmart or Home Depot, but most of us have torn out our hair.

3.   Variety
The variety of plants at the seed exchange is amazing. Herbs you’ve never heard of, or that may require research to obtain, like the moringa tree or epazote, an herb used to make beans more digestible, and save your friends and family from your sneaky gas attacks. Or heirloom varieties of sugar cane or different varieties of taro, the treasured local Hawaiian starchy vegetable.  You won’t find some of these varieties at the local nursery or hardware store. Also, you are contributing to genetic variety by saving seeds and planting different varieties, not just the few that are commonly available.

Why is genetic variety important?  Long story short, having a lot of genetic variety for one plant species or crop provides greater resilience and adaptability to changes in the environment, bugs, diseases, and human needs. Protecting genetic variety is crucial to supporting local agriculture that can feed an island.

4.   Education
Going to the plant and seed swap is educational. You’ll learn how to grow different plants and tips on what not to do. The volunteers in June were all farmers or gardeners so you could ask them random gardening questions too, even if they weren’t related to the seeds or plants on the table.

5.   Preserve local culture and heritage.
By cultivating plants that are valued by the native Hawaiians or other ethnic cultures on Maui, you help preserve local history and heritage. Taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, chayote squash, moringa, mamaki, breadfruit, and sugar cane have cultural significance in Hawaii. There are more varieties than the ones that are commonly available, and each variety may have different culinary features or uses.

6.   Food Security
In one of those zombie apocalypse scenarios where there are no boats to Hawaii bringing supplies of toilet paper, coal, and food (with TP being the most important item, just kidding), being able to grow local food crops that can withstand Maui’s unique growing conditions is going to be part of human survival. Maybe it will never happen, but what if? Even if life is still normal, you get to part of promoting local food security by growing your own food and saving seeds and plants that grow well locally.

Lastly, you should go because I am traveling off-island and cannot attend the next seed swap. Let me know how it is!