Haliimaile Community Garden

A community garden is like a microcosm of a larger community. Maybe it’s because of our agrarian past, where neighbors swapped tips, tools and tomatoes.

Haliimaile Community Garden is the oldest community garden on Maui, established in 2006. It is located near the bottom of the Haliimaile subdivision, at the end of Aoiki Street.

The two-acre, 107-plot garden is leased from Maui Land & Pineapple for $1 a year.

“Maui Land & Pineapple wanted to give back to the community,” said Lori Feroldi, secretary/treasurer of the garden’s association. “They contracted with the University of Hawaii and had students clear the eucalyptus (that was previously growing there).”

The organic garden was operating a 100 percent capacity last year and is at 78 percent usage this year, according to Feroldi. The cost to rent a plot is $100 a year, which includes water. Members also assist with garden group projects. There are two other community gardens on Maui – one in Napili and the other recently opened at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus.

There are a lot of reasons to be part of a community garden in largely rural Maui, according to Feroldi and Karen Peterson, who works on the association’s fundraising committee.

They say half of their members are residents from the adjacent Haliimaile community and the remainder are scattered throughout the island.

“Either they don’t have enough room or are renting,” said Feroldi.

Other reasons the two listed are:

* Selfsufficiency.

* Fresh food.

* More nutrients.

* Parents/children bonding.

Peterson, who was a member of an urban community garden for 20 years on the Mainland, had a couple of other reasons for being a community garden member.

“All the tools are here,” she said. She also enjoys the meditative aspect of gardening.

The shared toolshed is replete with most everything needed to work the earth. There are wheelbarrows, chippers, saws and even fruit fly traps.

There is also a shared compost pile for soil. It’s a true community effort, originated onsite.

Probably even more important is the interaction with other gardeners. Peterson got tips from friends like Feroldi that helped her solve a problem with her declining zucchini crop. A soil amendment of bone meal was the solution.

There is even a Goodwill Garden plot that is maintained by all. Feroldi delivered 100 pounds of squash from it to the Maui Food Bank last week.

Battling the elements in gardening is always a challenge. Feroldi said there is no deer problem, maybe due to a gulch on one side and a residential neighborhood on the other, but there are minor troubles with mice. Slugs are always a challenge.

Productive crops are kale, chard, lettuce, beets and carrots, according to Feroldi. Taro, kava and bananas also do well.

The garden takes human needs into consideration, too. In addition to an organic toilet, there is a family picnic space and a Bamboo Gathering Circle where gardening seminars and meetings are held.

The garden is kicking up its community outreach this year with the publication of a new book titled “Hawaii’s Grow Your Own Cookbook.” It is inspired by the many dishes of garden members.

The garden is also the beneficiary of a fundraiser Aug. 20 at Flatbread Co. in Paia. In addition to receiving partial proceeds from sales of both large and small flatbreads, there will be a silent auction.

Peterson and Feroldi agree that the minimum sweat equity put into the community garden is well worth the effort. They say a 10-foot-by-20-foot plot can provide all the vegetables needed for a single person. The minimum time requirement for maintenance is one visit a week, they said.

Peterson proudly displayed part of her harvest, as testament to the yield that gardeners enjoy. Individual plots can also be shared.

For more information about the Haliimaile Community Garden, call (415) 480-4769 or visit haliimailegarden.com.