NORTH HAWAII — Small-scale farmers and home gardeners in Hawaii now have an additional option for purchasing locally produced seeds.
The Hawaii Seed Growers Network (HSGN), a statewide group of seed producers organized and supported by The Kohala Center’s Hawaii Public Seed Initiative program, officially launched its online store last month. Customers can order 2018 seed varieties at hawaiiseedgrowersnetwork.com/shop. HSGN currently offers locally adapted, selectively bred seeds including beans, flowers, fruits, greens, herbs and peppers.
HSGN is comprised of artisanal farmers that have worked together for more than five years to grow, develop and provide high-quality local seeds to Hawaii’s gardeners and market farmers. Members commit to growing seed crops on a small scale to maintain close connections with their products, carefully observing, selecting and harvesting from only the hardiest plants. Their goal is to contribute to resilient local food systems by offering seeds selectively bred and produced in Hawaii for the islands’ diverse soils and microclimates.
“Restarting a local seed industry in Hawaii is a slow and ongoing process,” said Lyn Howe, director of The Kohala Center’s Hawaii Public Seed Initiative. “It takes many generations of growing and selecting varieties to produce quality seed with consistent, desired agricultural and culinary traits. But when you’re 2,300 miles from the nearest seed source, we think it’s a wise idea and worth the effort.”
Prior to the launch of HSGN’s online seed marketplace, the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Seed Lab was the only local seed producer. Hawaii’s gardeners have relied heavily on seeds imported from the continental United States, despite the fact that many are not properly adapted to Hawaii’s tropical and sub-tropical conditions, soil composition, pests and plant diseases.
The Kohala Center started the Hawaii Public Seed Initiative in 2009 as part of its goal to reduce Hawaii’s dependence on imported food. Participants in the Initiative began to grow and share plant varieties that thrived in their own gardens and fields. By saving and sharing the best seeds and re-growing them in other local microclimates, producers were able to evaluate seed performance under various environmental conditions.
The Center secured funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hawaii Department of Agriculture and Ceres Trust to help train and support HSGN producers, conduct seed trials, selectively breed and produce seeds, and develop the online marketplace. The Hawaii Island Seed Bank, the only facility in the Hawaiian Islands that stores native, conservation and agricultural seeds, provides storage services for seeds sold through the marketplace. Additional seed varieties will be offered later this year.
Additional online resources: Hawaii Public Seed Initiative at kohalacenter.org/hpsi and Hawaii Seed Growers Network at hawaiiseedgrowersnetwork.com.