Seed Exchange

Established on the lush, and volcanic western slopes of the Big Island, Coffee Times owner, Les Drent, roasted, and sold his first pound of Kona coffee in 1993. Five years later, Les moved his Coffee Times roasting operation to the beautiful island of Kauai, and established the Blair Estate shade grown, organic coffee farm in 2001. While his passion for farming is now deeply rooted in the Kauai soil, he continues to be a strong proponent for the preservation of 100% Kona coffee.

Seed Exchange
By: Lois Ann Ell

April 6, 2012

It was a first for me. But not for hundreds of others, who showed up on April 1st, 2012 to the 9th biannual Seed Exchange on Kaua’i. The event—filled with music, cups of kava, presentations, and a mass trading of goods from the garden— was held at The Children of the Land in Kapa’a, Kaua’i, a non-profit organization focused on Polynesian culture.

Papaya starts at the Seed Exchange

Inside The Children of the Land center, also known as Na Keiki ‘o Ka ‘Aina, is now also home to Regenerations Kaua’i Community Seed Bank. In addition to books, educational information, and t-shirts, the Seed Bank also has, you guessed it: seeds. Regenerations mission is to “collect, regenerate, and distribute plants that are native, rare, threatened, nutrient-dense, high-yielding, medicinal, beautiful, delicious and otherwise important to us, our island, and the planet,” according to their website.

Paul Massey is the Director of Regenerations Botanical Garden on the North Shore of Kaua’i, and the Seed Bank. In a speech, Massey explained that his non-profit organization parallels The Children of the Land organization, in the way that they are both “rooted in ethics” and both share the “knowledge that there will always be abundance on the island.”

Speaking of abundance, the quantity and variety of plant species available for trade at the Seed Exchange was immense. As I wandered inside the center and outside in to the lawn area, table after table offered delicately handled bowls of different types of seeds, roots of tumeric and ginger, stalks of sugar cane and cassava, samples of cut peppers revealing the seeds inside, boxes of Chayote squash, lots of taro cuttings, and many more plants. One man who had cuttings of ‘Awa root was offering cups of Kava, a ceremonial drink made from the plant.

Sugar cane cut and ready to be exchanged

Raffle Prizes in the form of plants were given away at the event by Massey, including a Tahitian Chestnut tree, and a Venezuelan Rose bush donated by the Kaua’i Hindu Monastery. Instead of giving a plant away to a raffle winner randomly, Massey sought to match the winner with the plant harmoniously, according to the climate where the winner lived, what they were seeking, how much time they had to care for the plant, and other factors.

A quick Google search on ‘seed exchanges’ reveals a large number of websites, groups, and organizations dedicated to this practice, and in all different categories as well: seeds for exotic plants, heirlooms, tropicals, and seeds for specific regions as well, like the Southern Seed Legacy Project in the South. There is even a calendar day devoted to the topic: the last Saturday of January each year marks National Seed Swap Day. If the turnout at this last event is any indication of the future, the Garden Isle will soon be a contender with the national exchanges, thanks to Massey and Regenerations.

The Regenerations crew and volunteers are currently working on a “Coastal Forest Food Garden” along the highway on the Eastside of Kaua’i. They also teach Sustainable Farming and Gardening Training at Kaua’i Community College. The Seed Bank is open Thursdays from 9-5. For more information, visit www.ribg.org

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