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Let’s Grow Hilo! 2013 Harvest Festival

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There is a growing population worldwide who believe food should be free for everyone, and that landscapes should be edible. Here on Big Island, these views come to fruition in the form of the third annual Let’s Grow Hilo! Harvest Festival, happening Sunday, August 25.

Let’s Grow Hilo! is a volunteer-only organization, started with the efforts of Sam Robinson, University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) College of Agriculture alumni. She brought the concept of guerilla gardening to Hilo with her full moon adventures, planting kalo and other local edibles in whatever open space she could find around the downtown area.

Solo missions were not enough to fulfill Robinson’s dream of a fully edible landscape, so she got involved with the Downtown Improvement Association (DIA) and with Girl Scout Troop 2096, who provided the necessary people-power. Says Robinson, “It lets us get a lot further faster when you have a bunch of little girls running around with plants and tools and having them all excited about gardens.” The organization’s first sustainable garden was created by Robinson and the Girl Scouts at UHH in front of the library lanai.

Two of the Girl Scouts are working closer with Robinson as part of Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative. These girls have earned their Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can get, by creating a cookbook with recipes using the produce found along the garden tour route, which is available at letsgrowhilo.com. Once complete, the cookbook will be available at local Social Service offices.

One of the girls, Bethany Cole, teaches 12 free cooking demos a year, one of which will be at the Harvest Festival. Robinson credits the Cole family with being one of the largest supporters of Let’s Grow Hilo!, helping organize work parties and much more.

Other sponsors include Keep Hawaii Beautiful, Recycle Hawaii, Mr. K’s Recycling, High Fire Hawaii, and local artist William McKnight. McKnight created and donated many of the stone sculptures in downtown Hilo. Health food store Abundant Life has made prior contributions of rice and cold storage space, and Island Naturals, also a health food store, is a new sponsor this year.

Robinson says businesses also provide priceless advice about what they and their customers need- that’s why there are cement chunk walkways through the gardens at every parking spot along the Bayfront. The shop owners are even consulted about what kinds of plants they want in front of their buildings, and Robinson does her best to honor their wishes.

According to Robinson, “It would not be a successful harvest festival without the local businesses we work with.” Besides money, says Robinson, she’s open to accepting any other help they can provide. “Whatever they can offer us, even if it’s just to come pull weeds or give a jar of honey. We can always use anything. Money only gets you so far- it’s the things you do with it.” With money raised from the August 2013 Harvest Festival, Let’s Grow Hilo! is planning to obtain a wood chipper.

The 2013 Harvest Festival will be held at the Hawaii Museum of Contemporary Art, located on Kalakaua Street in the old East Hawaii Cultural Center building. There will be vendors, crafts, info booths, demonstrations, a dancing tin can, and for the first time- live music.

Leche de Tigre will be on stage in the parking lot. Guitarist and group leader Dan Brauer says he got involved through a friend who volunteered at one of their shows last year. She told Brauer about the guerilla gardens around Hilo, which sparked his interest- he liked the idea of people having access to free food. Says Brauer, “I’d love to see that kind of thing happening in Kona, and everywhere! Why not?”

Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. For ticket information, vending, or any other questions, call (808) 935-8850. Information is also available at www.letsgrowhilo.com, or on Facebook at Hilo Harvest Festival 2013. So let’s grow, Hilo.