Hawaiʻi Institute of Pacific Agriculture

Aina Fest 2017

Life on the Farm

The Basics of Permaculture: Living Aloha

Today marks my one week living on the HIP Ag organic farm and being part of the community here. This is a place where you will not hear words like, “not my problem”, “who cares?” and “can’t be done.” The responses to queries, ideas, suggestions, concerns and enthusiasms are typically, “Who?” and “How?” My day begins with a sunrise wake-up to the vibrant sounds of nature, then either meditation in my hale (Hawaiian for house or home) or yoga with some of the interns, a walk to the house or the intern “Gulch” kitchen and then visiting the ducks with the two oldest children, whom energetically and hopefully search for eggs.

Hawaiian culture is readily integrated into the farming techniques, meals, and sense of open-hearted, determined spirit. Courageous conversations take place regarding living in community, and individuals find, explore and push their limits daily, with heartiness and support, and these efforts are celebrated. It has been an honor to learn and grow alongside the pioneers of this community, Dash and Erika, their 3 children, staff members and the current student intern group. It is incredible for me to observe various levels of fluency, education and harmony with nature, the land, and food. I recently graduated with my Ph.D. in clinical psychology, inching my way up the apex of my academics and through the depths of hundreds of psyches, yet here I am a humble, awkward, bright eyed novice, sometimes feeling as helpless and out of place as the baby lamb that was born yesterday.

Let me provide some examples. Within the past seven days, I have reached my hand (safely) into a barrel of honeycomb still surrounded by buzzing bees, and with collaboration and teamwork, calculated minimizing as much harm to the bees as possible, and worked into sunset to collect the honey; have become significantly more proficient in milking a cow by my second attempt, have become more comfortable chopping a coconut with a machete (once again, safety first here), have come to appreciate all the beauty of the Madagascar and Hawaiian geckos and have even befriended the decent sized Cane Spider in my hale whom I now consider to be my roommate; shared in prepping and enjoying community meals, surfed in a gorgeous cove with locals and have learned more about making cheese, macadamia nut processing and the basics of permaculture than I could have imagined.

I am learning more of the definition and spirit of Aloha here (Hawaiian for greeting and parting, as well as affection, peace, compassion and mercy). I also can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and the utmost heartfelt of union with others and the land, that we are truly all in this together.

It is with the support of community, the veterans of this program and land, the helpful cohort of interns and colorful cast of characters who swing by the farm (neighbors, friends, HIP Ag alum), that I am finding my way. This Jewish New Yorker, is finding that for the first time in decades, she has almost no complaints.

Aloha Nui Loa,

Alli Shapiro (from NY/CA/CO)

To practice and teach ecologically conscious agriculture, empowering individuals and communities to cultivate alternative systems of living that restore human and environmental health.

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