Meet a Seed Grower
Meet Melissa Emond at Innovations Public Charter School
Kealekekua, Hawaiʻi Island
I have had a hand in some type of agriculture for most of my life in Hawaii, and most recently on our very own mini-farm (still looking for a name) on one acre in Kealakekua. One acre of soil! My husband had no idea when he purchased the land before we were married that he was going to become a farmer, and he’s a natural.
While it is exciting to be starting a project of our own, I have spent the past years learning on others' farms, in school gardens and from distinguished mentors. It began with my stepdad, who was a landscape contractor in Kona. I watched him build beautiful landscapes with edible accents and good soil practices. My first job in ag was on a small coffee and orchid farm. Then I moved on to the legendary farm, Sun Bear Produce in Kealia. This was an inspiring and pivotal experience, as I learned to work the systems necessary to run a wildly successful food production operation. This experience was hugely impactful on my life and cemented my life's work.
I found my most inspired mentors were not in a public school or university classroom, and just at the right time I ran into Nancy Redfeather. I began an apprenticeship with her and Gerry Herbert at Kawanui Farm in Honalo in 2010, which continues today. I accompanied Nancy to the first statewide seed conference “Hua Ka Hua held on the Big Island that year. Sitting still at a conference all day is hard for me, but I remember feeling completely enthralled! It was here I realized the importance of seed and was shocked at the loss of our crops and genetic diversity. I knew I wanted to be involved in seed and that it was going to be a long road and a life journey.
In the following years, I became a garden teacher and have built two learning gardens at two Hawaii public schools. I am currently overseeing the Mauka Mala (upper garden) at Innovations Public Charter School. This quarter-acre garden is home to a food forest, production garden, seed production garden and outdoor classroom. One of the classroom activities is saving seed, and we have found that children have an incredible, mesmerizing connection with seed. This connection to seed is natural for them, and it’s natural for us all.
I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers. My grandma remembers the walls in her dad's room covered in shelves with jars of seeds on them. Just a few generations ago my family was self-sufficient. They had to be. After a skipped generation, we are getting back on track, and while we will likely never go back to growing everything we eat, the importance of selecting, saving and distributing seed is just as important as ever.
Melissa is currently overseeing the Mauka Mala (upper garden) at Innovations Public Charter School. This quarter-acre garden is home to a food forest, production garden, seed production garden and outdoor classroom. One of the classroom activities is saving seed, and we have found that the children have an incredible, mesmerizing connection with seed. This connection to seed is natural for them, it's natural for us all.