Mark your calendars; Saturday, September 25th through October 2nd is Eat Local Week! Kanu Hawaii is organizing a grassroots effort to educate the community about the benefits of eating locally grown food. Kanu Hawaii was started by a group of forty young people who wanted to make change in their communities. It now has over 12,000 members on the islands who commit "to protect and promote island living - a connection to the 'aina, a culture of aloha, and local economic self reliance."

For this project, they've joined with partner organizations around the Big Island to create opportunities for everyone to get first hand experience growing, preparing, eating and sharing locally grown food.

As a prelude to the week, the film Ingredients will be playing on Thursday, September 23rd, at UH Hilo UCB 100, 7pm. It features interviews with farmers, chefs and educators around the country who are working towards a new food culture that emphasizes quality over convenience. The preview begins with the observation that throughout history no culture has ever spent less on food or more on medical care. One man notes the truth that “we can either pay the doctor or the farmer.” I met the director, Robert Bates, when he was on Oahu not long ago to talk with Ma’o Farms about featuring the work they’re doing in another documentary. It’s great to see local heroes getting the attention they deserve.

Events will really kick off on Saturday, September 25th, when the Kohala Center is organizing an island-wide school garden volunteer day. For those on Oahu, you can contact Ma’o Farms about their Saturday GIVE days or, if you don’t see a school near you on the list, try reaching out to one in your area and see if they could use a hand getting a garden started, or maintaining one they have.

On Sunday, September 26th, the Hawaii Homegrown Food Network is sponsoring a workshop up in Hawi on the Big Island where participants will learn to start an easy and abundant perennial food garden “that can feed a family healthy, fresh food for years to come.” Growing a garden, even a small one, will help you save money on fresh produce, and probably on medical bills too! In addition to the fresh air and exercise you’ll get, vegetables contain the most nutrients when they’re fresh. Growing a garden is also a good opportunity to learn, or teach your children, about the history and culture of Hawai'i through traditional crops like taro and sweet potato.

There’s an abundance of events throughout the rest of the week. One that caught my eye was the Stone Soup Club over in Kona. Members gather the produce from their gardens and trees and collaborate on a shared meal, organized around the ingredients each person is able to contribute. What a great idea! I remember when I was in preschool, our parents would load us up with vegetables once a week and our teacher would cook them up into a delicious veggie stew. She even dropped a stone in the pot, and whoever found it in their bowl made a wish. I can’t remember what I wished for then, but I’ll call on the power of the soup stone now: I wish for everyone to have a garden in their backyard, full to bursting with more fresh veggies than they can eat. I know it’s possible, and I hope you’ll join with Kanu Hawaii, The Kohala Center, Hawaii Homegrown Food Network and all of us at Down to Earth to make the wish come true!