Perspectives from the Permaculture Tent
By Lauren Ruotolo, Program Manager
The 7th Annual Kohala ‘Aina Festival was truly a celebration of food sovereignty through education. Besides lots of conscious music, the festival featured a Hawaiian Culture Village and Permaculture Education tent with hands-on workshops and talks run by educational and community leaders. There was even education surrounding our zero-waste efforts, thanks to Hawai‘i Green Waste, with volunteers providing guidance as to where proper compostables, recyclables and landfill rubbish went.
In the past, funds from the benefit festival have served over 850 youth, at Kohala Elementary School, Waimea Middle School, and Kanu High School. Funds raised this year will benefit education throughout the community in the form of farm field trips, in-class presentations, and after-school and summer programs including camp-outs and leadership trainings. The focus of programming is suited to each age group, with a focus on connecting to the ‘aina in addition to topics such as plant identification for keiki, and more hands-on tools for older students, such as nutrition, food preparation, and sustainable agriculture education and apprenticeships.
The Permaculture Tent was a blast, leading off with Donna Maltz and her beautiful array of garden products. She taught her audience how to transform the garden into food medicine, elixirs, and safe cleaning products. Donna was a thrill to watch as she engaged people by sampling her sauerkraut, beet kvass, and even her vinegar based cleaning products!
Next, we had Bobby Grimes teaching the audience all about bamboo from variety identification, to harvesting techniques, to building. If you need a bamboo guru with a twist of humor and flare, Bobby is your bamboo go-to. After Bobby’s talk, about a third of his audience was lined up to talk bamboo with him.
Zach Mermel, our permaculture infused with fungi expert, taught us about different families of fungi and their roles and benefits in the garden. Zach encouraged engagement from the audience during his entire workshop with hands-on mycological inoculation in card board. Participants even went home with their own piece to add beneficial organisms to their home gardens.
Jen Rassmussen, a local beekeeper and bee wizard, interestingly paralled human lives to a lives of a honey bees. You could tell by her talk how much she cares for bee species and their health by her intuitive hive caretaking techniques.
Even though the sun was setting upon Ilana Stout from the Heritage Seed Saving Project, her audience was huddled around extracting heirloom seeds together. Together, they learned about the importance of genetic seed diversity and all of the cool projects that are happening around it. Did you know there’s a Seed Exchange at North Kohala Library? There, anyone can have access to free seeds with the ideal that they bring more back after they’ve produced.
In addition to the Permaculture Tent, 2016 marks the fourth year that Kumu KiTeya Belford-Smith brought a group of student volunteers from his ‘Āi Pono (Food Sovereignty) class from Kanu O Ka ʻĀina, a Hawaiian-focused, project-based charter school located in Waimea, South Kohala, to the Kohala ʻĀina Festival. This year, the students from Kanu facilitated games of strategy and skill at the Hawaiian Village in celebration of the beginning of the Makahiki season.
Overall, the event was a beautiful culmination of education, music, and food surrounding agricultural sovereignty. We cannot thank our rock star Educators and Volunteers enough as they are the true measure of success at the festival. Mahalo to them and those that came out to support.