Community

Pāhoa Community Garden Nourishes Families and Teaches Children about the Land

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With soaring food prices, feeding five children can be tough. But 32-year-old Jasmine Tripp has been able to provide nourishing food for her kids and save hundreds of dollars a month by taking advantage of her local community garden in the Black Sands Beach subdivision in Puna.

The Pāhoa resident said she mixes beans grown in the garden with canned pork to make meals. She also creates soup out of lemongrass.

Tripp hopes the garden ultimately will feed more members of the community.

The 7,400-square-foot garden (.17 acres) is filled with tomatoes, green beans and peppers. There also is an herb garden and a medicinal garden with lemongrass, noni and aloe.

Timothy Rowan, vice president of Black Sands property owners association and chief volunteer in the garden, spent Saturday planting papaya trees with fellow volunteers.

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Rowan also is uprooting weeds and invasive species encroaching on the land with funding from a $2,500 grant from Hawai‘i County’s discretionary relief fund.

Plans are in place to put more seeds in the ground, create a compost pile, erect a fence to keep out wild pigs, and mulch the garden beds.

Councilman Matthew Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder helped facilitate the grant that will also pay for seeds and garden supplies.

“It’s strengthening our community and creating more food with a little funding,” he said. “What better use of taxpayer funds than to help grow food?”

Rowan’s hope is that the food grown will help feed his community’s families.

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“Our community is poor,” he said. “It’s one of the poorest communities in lower Puna.”

Many families have four and five children and live on fixed incomes.

Rowan started volunteering in the garden 21 months ago when he discovered the parcel was pretty neglected, but saw its potential to provide food for the community.

The 64-year-old tries to work in the garden two to three days a week for up to three hours. Some days, the workload is heavy. One day he spent four hours removing stumps. Another day he loaded a rototiller to put 60 plants in the ground. He also hauls compost, cinder or soil to the garden.

Last week, he cut down strawberry guava with a chainsaw.

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Rowan is working with fellow community resident Carrie Kowalski to get children involved in tending to the garden.

Kowalski, co-founder of the seasonal program Mālama Keiki, Kowalski, teaches kids how to make good decisions. They learn how to play chess. There is a reading program and physical activities. The kids also learn how to tend to the community garden.

“We want to teach them how to grow their own food, and our goal is to make it sustainable for our community,” Kowalski said.

Tripp and her children have worked in the garden, where they learn about the ʻaina. She said the experience has been positive.

“They come home and they plant plants,” she said. “Everyone is learning how to share and give to one another.”

Tripp was grateful for Rowan and his work in regularly maintaining the community’s garden.

“This man is so awesome,” she said. “He has magical hands. He’s out there just slaying it by himself.”

Rowan said he’s just trying to be a good steward, adding the garden belongs to the community: “I really believe in sustainability and teaching the next generation and planting for the next generation.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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