KULA - Four hundred pounds of sweet potatoes have been growing in the organic soils of Ocean Vodka's Farm in Kula since July 2013, getting ready to make a journey around the world with the crew of the Hokule'a.
The crew, family and friends of the Hokule'a came together on Mother's Day for harvest, celebrating the original mother canoes, Wa'a Makuahine, that brought the first Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands.
The crop will be used as food and also in research on hydroponic farming and other methods of continuous on-vessel farming that could support the crew as they traverse the globe.
Members of the Hokule‘a crew, Hui o Wa‘a Kaulua and Friends of Mo‘okiha o Pi‘ilani harvest sweet potatoes at Ocean Vodka’s Farm in Kula.
Malama Honua, the World Wide Voyage of the voyaging canoe Hokule'a, is scheduled to begin on May 24, making the first official leg of its journey from Hilo to Tahiti.
Hokule'a is unique in that it operates using traditional Polynesian navigation techniques, with sails and by the stars and elements, without modern navigational instruments.
The Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokule'a and Hikianalia are sailing across Earth's oceans to join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable world.
Covering 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports and 26 countries, the Malama Honua World Wide Voyage will highlight diverse cultural and natural treasures and the importance of working together to protect them.
One hundred pounds of sweet potatoes will be used in celebrations in Lahaina and Hilo. The remaining 200 pounds will be used as nourishment and research for the crew as they sail the first leg from Hilo to Tahiti.
The variety of sweet potatoes is "piko," which translates to center.
"Piko is the starting point where we thrive. It is at this core spot that one is re-energized, so that you can then go out into the world and offer your gifts," said group leader Kealoha Hoe.
"The potatoes and other sources of food serve as physical and spiritual nourishment on our journey - a tie to the Gods that incorporates mana and spirit."
The Hawaiian name for this voyage, Malama Honua, means "to care for our Earth." Living on an island chain teaches that the natural world is a gift with limits to be carefully stewarded.
In efforts to protect cultural and environmental resources for the future, the Pacific voyaging traditions teach to venture beyond the horizon to connect and learn with others.
The World Wide Voyage is a means by which all of Island Earth is engaged - practicing how to live sustainably while sharing, learning, creating global relationships and discovering the wonders of the planet.
It is the goal of the more than 300 crewmembers involved in Malama Honua to be good stewards in every phase of the journey, practicing with humility and an honor for the right to travel; being listeners and vessels of information.
"We are stewards of ocean and of land. By growing the sweet potato, the Ocean Vodka family is practicing our stewardship," said Hokule'a crewmember and Ocean Vodka longtime employee C.J. Elizares.
"We are all just stewards of our time, taking care of the Earth and culture in this time period serving as models for the next generation."
Mary Anna Enriquez, an eighth grade teacher at Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina, is a crewmember for Hui o Wa'a Kaulua. She will be following the world wide voyage, using curriculum to teach her classes about sustainability and navigation. Follow Hokule'a's global journey at www.hokulea.com.