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Hua Ka Hua - Restore Our Seed; A Symposium to Develop a Hawaii Public Seed Initiative

Investigators
Valenzuela, Hector
Institutions
Kohala Center
Start date
2009
End date
2010
Objective
The short-term objectives of the project are to bring together Hawaii farmers and gardeners and local and national experts to start a Hawaii Public Seed Initiative (HPSI), by examining diverse examples in other areas of the US, discussing Hawaii's critical need for action, and developing a work plan and funding strategy for initiative implementation.

The symposium will facilitate sharing information among and between the diverse participants, including speakers from the University of Hawaii, the Organic Seed Alliance, the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, and panels of local farmers, public policy experts, and agricultural economists. On the last day of the symposium a working session will create a roadmap for HPSI implementation that includes educational workshops given on all the islands to cover basic seed biology, genetics and research methods to identify and train for on-farm variety trials.

Another working group will develop a communications system and a clearinghouse for organic seed storage and dissemination. In addition, the working group will begin to engage stakeholders in the Pacific Basin countries to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, seed and germplasm and lay plans for future seed development that might increase biodiversity across the region. The ultimate impact of the proposed symposium is the provision of fresh, vigorous organic open-pollinated varieties of food crops, medicinals, and culinary herbs for tropical and semi-tropical climates, increasing island food self-sufficiency in Hawaii.

The immediate outcome of the symposium and planning meeting will be the development of a blueprint for to re-invigorating open pollinated seed production suited to Hawaii and Pacific growing conditions.

An anticipated short-term outcome will be the development of new working relationships between members of the organic farming community, improvement of relationships between university researchers and farmers, and between farming and gardening associations, based on a spirit of collaborating for everyone's benefit. A second short-term outcome is the establishment of a Hawaii Public Seed Initiative to provide the educational, research and material support for the long-term restoration of seed and germplasm trials, selection, storage, and distribution by and for Hawaii and Pacific region farmers.

The ability of farmers and gardeners to conduct trials in a variety of climatic zones, soil types, and seasons, and then analyze those research results will yield organic open-pollinated seed for the market farmers and the home gardeners across the state. This will be an important element in the restoration of increased food self-reliance for Hawaii and provide farmers with a value-added product for local and other tropical markets.

More information
Non-Technical Summary: Seed is the foundation of agriculture and is vital for the expansion of Hawaii's food production. Hawaii is the most isolated island chain on the planet and is now dependent upon long distance transport (2300 miles) for our food and fuel. Though as late as the 1940s Hawaii could feed itself, the state now imports 90% of its food and almost all of its agricultural inputs, including seed. Disruption of shipping through shortages, natural disasters, strikes, or rising costs, leaves the state with a 3-7 day food supply on grocery shelves according to the Food Security Briefing at last session's Hawai'i State Legislature. Because Hawaii currently imports 90+% of our food, time is ripe for the development of a Public Seed Initiative. Hawaii's farmers and home gardeners are dependent upon mainland seed produced in temperate climates to provide the foundation for agriculture in the state. However Hawaii's climate is tropical and has diverse climatic zones as well as great variability in soil types and rainfall patterns. Open-pollinated seed nationwide is disappearing at an alarming rate and many of these OP and heirloom varieties, with their wide adaptation to climatic ranges, would be suitable for variety trials and seed development in and for Hawai'i. The University of Hawaii had a seed breeding program at one time, but this program was discontinued. Although multinational corporations conduct research and development of genetically engineered seed varieties in Hawaii due to its geographic isolation, this seed is not suitable for Hawaii's organic market farmers or home gardeners. "Hua Ka Hua - Restore Our Seed" is a three-day statewide symposium to bring knowledgeable agricultural stakeholders, including farmers, researchers, and extension agents, to discuss Hawaii's needs and opportunities for a long-term public seed initiative in the State of Hawaii. This symposium is necessary to re-start an organized and scientific approach to organic seed breeding and selection in Hawaii. This research has not been a university or extension service priority for many years with resulting loss of heirloom varieties and plant biodiversity. We will assess Hawaii farmers' knowledge and interest in organic seed production and solicit input on the development of a comprehensive plan for organic seed education and breeding programs specific to Hawaii and the Pacific Basin. This symposium will result in state-wide and local working groups that produce a plan and funding requests for island-by-island educational workshops, on-farm variety trials, selection and improvement of organic open-pollinated seed and germplasm (such as taro, and sweet potato) varieties suited for tropical environments, along with development of effective ways to share data in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific.

Approach: The short-term objectives of the project are to bring together Hawaii farmers and gardeners and local and national experts to start a Hawaii Public Seed Initiative (HPSI), by examining diverse examples in other areas of the US, discussing Hawaii's critical need for action, and developing a work plan and funding strategy for initiative implementation. The symposium will create a venue to share necessary background information with a diverse audience with speakers from the University of Hawaii, the Organic Seed Alliance, the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, and panels of local farmers, public policy experts, and agricultural economists. On the last day of the symposium directors and key personnel, along with selected other key stakeholders, will meet in a working session to create a roadmap for HPSI implementation that includes educational workshops given on all the islands to cover basic seed biology, genetics and research methods to identify and train for on-farm variety trials. At the same time a state-wide seed initiative working group will develop plans for a communications system and a clearinghouse for organic seed storage and dissemination. In addition, the working group would identify and begin to engage stakeholders in the Pacific Basin countries to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, seed and germplasm and lay plans for future seed development that might increase biodiversity across the region.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
HAWW-2009-01389
Accession number
219162
Categories
Food Defense and Integrity
Policy and Planning
Commodities
Produce