Food Forest

UPDATE 7/3/2013
Fiscal year 2013 closed without approval for the food forest, and therefore, no release of funds to implement it. All is not lost. Project proponents are regrouping and learning the lessons from a successful project at Kuhio Mini Park in Waikiki. See our news update for more info.


Kamaliʻi Park, an underutilized “diamond in the rough” at the gateway to downtown Honolulu, has been identified by the City Council for a food security pilot project. A citizens’ team organized through Transition Oahu has been working diligently to design and secure community support for an edible landscape known as a “food forest.”

Kamaliʻi today and concept of possible transformation (banana and breadfruit trees shown)

Conceptual image of food forest implementation courtesy of Island Foodscaping.

The project takes its inspiration from urban food forests and related projects in other parts of the U.S., including Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest, as well as a recent groundswell of teaching, learning, and application of permaculture principles on Oahu.

food forest diagram showing multiple layers

Food forest diagram by Graham Burnett. Click image for larger version on Wikipedia.

A food forest is not a community garden where individuals have separate plots. Instead, it is a holistically designed system of trees and perennials that complement each other and take advantage of each distinct layer from canopy to soil.

Creating an edible landscape in downtown Honolulu can create a unique public space that strengthens community and shows what is possible when we bring people together around food.

Brief Project History

In early 2012, Transition Oahu shared the news and excitement surrounding plans for Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest. Then-councilmember Tulsi Gabbard was inspired to explore the possibility of a small-scale pilot food forest pilot project in Honolulu. She and community consultants identified Kamaliʻi Park as a prime candidate. Councilmember Gabbard introduced $50,000 for the project in the draft FY 2013 budget and the funds remained in the final version.

Since then, a working group organized as a committee of Transition Oahu has been leading the design and outreach needed to make the project a reality. Many community partners have come on board to advocate for the project and/or commit to maintenance. See our news update regarding unanimous support from the Downtown Neighborhood Board.

Community Partners

Transition OahuPermablitz Hawaii

Island FoodscapingAsia-Pacific Center for Regenerative DesignARTS at Marks Garage

Hawaii Pacific UniversityMental Health KokuaInstitute for Human Services

808 UrbanHonolulu PoliceCamp Mokuleia

Letters of Support

808 Urban
ARTS at Marks Garage
Hawaii Pacific University
Institute for Human Services
Safe Haven/Mental Health Kokua

Next Steps

Honolulu Food Forest Operations Plan (draft)

The draft operations plan includes a project statement, listing of working group members, and narrative for project sequence, oversight, and sustainability.

As of early June 2013, Parks & Recreation has not approved the pilot project or released budgeted funds. The working group is meeting with Parks & Recreation leadership and elected officials to try to secure approval. Even if timing or political considerations do not allow the funds to be released, we nonetheless seek permission for the project to move forward.

The community is bringing substantial volunteer power and in-kind donations to the table. By approving the project, the City can take advantage of this excellent opportunity to build community, advance the mayor’s priority to “re-establish pride in our city parks,” and make a symbolic yet significant step toward food security.

two men carrying a giant plant with the words, 'Let's make it happen!'

Permablitz @ HPU Hawaii Loa campus, May 2012

Selected Academic Literature

R.J. McLain, K. MacFarland, L. Brody, J. Hebert, P. Hurley, M. Poe, L.P. Buttolph, N. Gabriel, M. Dzuna, M.R. Emery, and S. Charnley, February 2012. Gathering in the City: An Annotated Bibliography and Review of the Literature About Human-Plant Interactions in Urban Ecosystems. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Melissa R. Poe & Rebecca J. McLain & Marla Emery & Patrick T. Hurley, December 2012. Urban Forest Justice and the Rights to Wild Foods, Medicines, and Materials in the City. Human Ecology.

Rebecca McLain, Melissa Poe, Patrick T. Hurley, Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook, Marla R. Emery, 2012. Producing edible landscapes in Seattle’s urban forest. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

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