It’s an uncommon dining experience: you turn mauka off the highway in Kilauea, there are no advertisements, no string of cars looking for parking, no delivery trucks dropping off packaged food. No, it feels more like you have stumbled upon a 60-acre farm that happens to have a tranquil, open-air restaurant, where bananas and coconuts hang from the doors. A few feet beyond the tables are herb gardens. Beyond that is a massive garden, with rows and rows of vegetables. “You can sit down and look at where your food is coming from,” said Jay Sklar, chef and food-services director.
The Garden restaurant at Common Ground — a resource center for the community with many projects focused on sustainability — is leading the way to show what is possible for restaurants who embrace the “farm-to-fork” concept. When Common Ground — formerly Guava Kai Plantation — began the farming process over two years ago, the old guava trees, which were no longer able to produce fruit, were cut and chipped into a nitrogen-rich compost to make the soil healthy. They now continue to make their own compost with various materials on site, and mix it with oxygenated water in order to make a “tea” they spray on the crops. Sklar said they use no petro chemicals, and the practice of permaculture is used, meaning the landscaping is edible and plants are strategically placed in order to naturally benefit each other.
For centuries botanists were unable to reproduce and ship the plant, which is native to the Pacific Islands. But a team of researchers led by Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawaii, has discovered how to propagate it en masse to ship to regions in Central America and Africa where it would grow best (and where hunger rates are highest). Now Ragone has 40 requests from governments, NGOs, nonprofits, and farmers across the globe to integrate the fruit.