A new community garden in the former Kuhio Park Terrace complex in Kalihi is literally breaking new ground at the state's largest public housing project.
Organizers say the garden not only will provide much-needed healthy and indigenous foods for residents but will help build community in an ethnically divided neighborhood.
"We first started thinking about a garden here more than 20 years ago, it's been a long wait," David Derauf, executive director of the Kokua Kalihi Valley, said during today's groundbreaking ceremonies.
"What we're really growing here is relationships in the community. Take Kuhio Park Terrace, you have people coming together from all over the world literally learning how to get along. And they don't always get along."
Added resident Matthew Villanueva:
"I guess a big goal of KKV is to take the division among community members and bring some reconciliation with everybody. This is a great way to do it," he said.
The new garden is located on a 7,000 square-foot former housing lot across from Linapuni Elementary School.
Plans are to grow vegetables like beets, radishes, lettuce and green onions. Bananas, breadfruit, taro and other ethnic foods will likely be planted.
The project is a partnership between Kokua Kalihi Valley and Kuhio Park's owner Michaels Development, which provided the lot. A $30,000, two-year grant from the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice will pay for tools and operating costs.
Michaels Development took over the project in 2011 as part of a $130 million makeover in which the project's name was changed from Kuhio Park Terrace to the Towers at Kuhio Park.
Many of residents of the 555-unit project have never worked in a garden but they say they look forward to growing their own plants.
"We can grow our own vegetables and herbs instead of spending money in the stores," said tenant Trudy Sabalboro.
Jessica Higgins, a garden outreach coordinator with Kokua Kalihi Valley, says growing and eating healthier foods also will help people get more in touch with their heritage.
"This is important so that people can connect to their culture and get back to their healthy roots, feed themselves organic, healthy vegetables that they grew," she said.