The Kaua'i Food Forest is a community-based subtropical food ecosystem located on Kaua`i’s north shore in the ahupua'a (watershed) of Kalihiwai, a collaborative project of three nonprofit organizations: Regenerations Botanical Garden, Mālama Kaua`i, and the Sanctuary of LUBOF. Regenerations is responsible for leading the ongoing design, planting, and maintenance of the forest, while Malama Kaua`i and LUBOF play supportive roles.
We are creating a constantly evolving, radiantly healthy forest ecosystem with nutritious delicious fruit and other food items as the major output. The forest is intended to serve as an educational demonstration site, where community members from Kaua`i and beyond can learn and innovate subtropical agroforestry techniques and management through practical hands-on experience. In addition, the forest will be a renewable source of biological diversity for reproduction, distribution, and conservation.
The concept of the food forest began to emerge in 2010, following a permaculture design course on Kaua`i the year before. The forest was a natural extension to the Kalihiwai Community Garden, which began in 2009. Community informational meetings were held in early 2012. A one-day workshop on planning and planting a perennial food forest was held in May 2012. Pre-installation design of the forest continued through the summer, and shaping of the land was done in November. The food forest officially commenced with a large-scale planting on the long weekend of December 1-3, 2012.
Before humans arrived, Kalihiwai Ridge was almost certainly dense forest, with an impressive diversity of plants, birds, insects, and other native organisms found nowhere else on earth that had coevolved and adapted to the land over a 5 million year period. Human impact was probably slow, as the Polynesian settlers did not focus their activities in upland areas until the coastal and lowland resources began to be diminished. In 1863, the land that is now home to the food forest was sold by the Hawaiian monarch Kamehameha IV to Charles Titcomb. Sugarcane was grown on the land from 1880 until 1971. From 1977 until 2006 the land was managed as a large-scale guava plantation. When that operation ceased, the land was purchased by Bill & Joan Porter, cleared of guava trees, and for 5 years the two-acre site of the food forest was a gently sloping field of mowed grass.
Permaculture and Sustainability
Permaculture seeks to take care of the land and the people, and to reinvest energy into the system for long-term abundance, productivity, and resilience. Sustainable agriculture’s goal is to provide for today’s needs without jeopardizing the future needs of our children grandchildren, and all life on Earth. We try to design and refine our practices of land and ecosystem management mindful of the ethical standards of permaculture and sustainable agriculture. Often the basis of our practices comes from traditional knowledge specific to Pacific islands agroforestry. We also keep abreast of the latest findings and best management practices from researchers in university, government, nonprofit, and commercial agriculture organizations.
It’s no secret that Kaua'i and other remote islands in the Pacific are overly dependent on food imports to sustain its people. The Kaua'i Food Forest has and will continue to positively impact the community by inspiring and training homeowners, farmers, and organizations to establish and maintain food forest systems around Kaua'i and throughout Hawai'i. More food forests means more food security through access to healthy locally grown food that can be consumed immediately after harvest for maximum nutrition. Each food forest that is established can generate the seeds and cuttings needed to begin new food forests, as well as drive innovation as each forest is tailored by the ingenuity and preferences of its co-creators.
What Our Volunteers Are Saying
"I feel very welcomed and appreciated whenever volunteering for the Food Forest. The trees and plants are as beautiful as the people involved. I'm so grateful for the food forest and its eco-agricultural role in the community." -Eve Schlosser
"Kauai Food Forest is a community of teachers, students, and caretakers. In not just perpetuating but restoring the health of the soil we restore health to the island and ourselves." -Fiona Weingartner