Special Story By Ono Guest

Strolling through Paradise: A Permaculture Adventure Odyssey on the Big Isle of Hawaii – by Loren Lewisohn

Greetings fellow eco-adventurers! I have always been enthralled by tropical climates as there are so many wonderful nuances to more fully enjoy. And speaking of idyllic opportunities, I learned from a close friend about a thriving permaculture community located 15 miles north on the Hamakua Heritage coast, near the bustling town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Soon, I was very glad to experience a unique slice of this gorgeous rural paradise. My musings were confirmed as I first ventured through the spacious 11 acre Ono Gardens property, a thriving tropical oasis alive with a vast multitude of diversity, including a very dedicated group of earthstewards. One of the first things I noticed as I amicably chatted with owner Michael Tivana and his staff, was a prominent sign which read: “Welcome to Paradise”. Partly responsible for this designation are the plentiful assortment of tropical fruit trees which include 70 lychees, 4 abius, 53 meyer lemons, 4 soursops, 41 longons, 10 avocados and 3 cherimoyas. There are also papayas, bananas and grapefruit. Tropical medicinal plants on-site include noni and comfrey, turmeric, ginger, spilanthes and aloe.

Surveying the spacious grounds, I really enjoyed admiring beautiful exotica: Frangipani, Bird of Paradise, Jade Vines, Passion Flowers, Sweet Datura and a multitude of others. My curiosity being sufficiently piqued, I continued to stroll barefoot across the dew-strewn meadow to the far side of “Eden”.

Also, I very much loved wandering across this very spacious slice of paradise. As I wistfully gazed off into the distance, I realized that the all- pervasive silence was indeed rapturous. Now too I understood the real timeless awakening, of which inexorably we are all a part of, is interlinked with awareness itself. Soon I discovered there’s much more about the garden which I need to be aware of.

Now, if I can just still the wiles of my scampering monkey-mind, I intuit something very startling is in store. I’m correct! Here’s what’s truly awesome: just over the side boundary fence is a huge plunging ravine, replete with all sorts of wild tropical flora. And, far beyond that are more untapped junglescapes which includes a gurgling river wending its way to the glistening Pacific.

Herein, sequestered in the heart of the gardens, it’s possible to be lost, like the most intrepid of wayward wanderers. All this exists within this ever-burgeoning “lost Shangri-la” which stretches far into infinity with reckless abandon. In fact, every moment of quietude encourages me to delve ever deeper into this mysterious, fascinating milieu and far beyond, into the very depths of my soul.

Now, having meandered nearly full circle, I feel elated, and yet very peaceful. Still there is more to come. For instance, I am well-ensconced in my own dreamland of sorts, one in which Mother Nature, true to form and function, seamlessly shares her treasured attributes. If there are words to describe the best elements of this tropical oasis, I feel “truly awesome” fits the bill!

Continuing onward, gratefully intrigued, I pass very long thickets of towering bamboo which appears to span several hundred feet in length. Beyond this are innumerable banana groves, hidden at first glance to my naked eye. Then too, nearby is a mulberry tree, bursting forth with tasty delectables. Interspersed among the greenery are a plethora of scampering chickens, and once in a blue moon, quite elusively, a slinky black cat or two.

Sequestered here and there across the spacious meadows are several large greenhouses, neatly tucked away between the torch ginger plantings and a myriad of unruly passionfruit vines. Entering one greenhouse, there’s all sorts of herbs, tomatoes etc. On the other side of the property I am transfixed by the gorgeous ocean vistas. Now, having freely roamed across so much of the property, I am just about ready for a siesta, or even an afternoon smoothie.

After I return to my comfortable lodging in the main building, a dinner bell rings. Soon, I am delighted to share a sumptuous meal of organic collectibles harvested right from the garden. Delicious gourmet foods, mainly vegetarian cuisine, is the byproduct of quite varied recipes.

Imagine enjoying quinoa bread, tasty fresh salads, coconut and papaya smoothies with cinnamon and vanilla flavorings. Add a dash of lemon or lime and, voila, one is richly satisfied! Everyone remarks how much they love this homestyle cooking. Additionally all assembled appreciate how much caring goes into the preparation of these splendid meals. I feel so well satisfied! As an added plus, there’s always a very ample supply of tasty delicacies.

We also as a group immensely enjoy marvelous sunrises and sunsets as well as nocturnal jungle sounds right in our midst! Though every day has its blessings, soon I’m ready to retire for the evening. Fortunately, I am able to sleep soundly. Awakening at dawn, and being so delighted to greet the new morning, I’m curious to learn more about the daily farm routines. Out of the corner of one eye, I notice a gent walking toward me who is decked out in a huge white protective garb. Now I understand this specialist is the garden beekeeper!

Ono Gardens is renowned for its super-educated staff who have years of advanced permaculture experience. Soon I’m invited to be part of the group tour to learn the fine points of this sort of land stewardship.

The well-trained staff is very informative. Everyone assembled is so pleased to be able to expand their permaculture skills, including astute ways to nurture the garden. The well-rounded session eventually concludes, and we return to our quarters. It’s always great to acknowledge that the chickens are happy, the bright yellow banana birds are thrilled, and last, but not least…so are we!

Hold on for just a moment! Have you ever encountered a psychedelic-infused bright green gecko poised on a ti leaf, sticking out its tongue? Well, stay around Ono enough, and you definitely will! Now I would like to comment on the myriad blessings of bioregional self-sufficiency, the weekly very popular local gathering known as Food Share. This organic farmers market takes place in close proximity to Ono. At the homespun, country living, outdoor affair, replete with a huge variety of ethnic food and arts and craft booths, I spy a wandering musician or two and a host of lively reggae tunes. The Food Share is really a treat! I’m so delighted to meet a host of colorfull, sustainable living aficionados. As examples: there’s a long-dreadlocked adorned amiable chap from Jamaica, another pleasant bloke from the wilds of Mexico, and a number of attractive lasses serving various exotic local concoctions. Then too, there’s delicious Thai food, and so many green cocos that it would make most anyone’s head spin! Yet there’s even more! Here and there, listening closely, I notice some Hawaiians conversing in the local pidgin-a dialectic which is easily decipherable to those in the know. For instance, if you hear the words “broke da mouth”, the loose translation is that the food is simply out of this world! Yes, and indeed it is!

Then on a whim, a friend excitedly sidles up to me alongside the bed of a nearby pickup truck. Quite spontaneously, several of us peer into the open tailgate. Soon it’s revealed there is a giant pumpkin which is prominently situated therein. Now I learn the origins of this amazing specimen, courtesy of a robust Belizean from locally-based Mayan World Farms.

After the conclusion of the Food Share, everyone makes their way back home. Wow, it’s been truly quite a day! It’s been a sheer pleasure to get to meet amiable visitors and locals, as well as to make the rounds of the various booths. From everything I’ve learned thus far about Ono and the burgeoning Big Isle sustainability movement, what I realize is that everything is in full swing.

The following day I am treated to yet another amazing Ono Gardens tour. This time as a group we are really learning more about the fine points of the spacious organic gardens. As I continue to peer through the enchanting junglescape, I notice one plot includes surprisingly large heads of cabbage, reminiscent of Scotland’s Findhorn Garden. Michael Tivana smiles and then gently intones, “We’ve got the best soil on Hamakua Coast”.

As I reflect back on the course of history, I really feel that it’s apropos to consider our planet’s biodiversity. In earlier eras such diversity was far more prevalent than today. It is this specific knowledge that has motivated Gabriel Howearth, the renowned permaculturalist with over 35 years experience in the organic agricultural field to specialize in such activities as seed-saving and related subject matter. In fact, Gabriel spent two years at Ono Gardens sharing select wisdom as part of his global outreach which took him to over 87 countries. I was pleased to learn his major focus was preservation of native species. Both Gabriel and Ono Gardens staff have also been intrigued by the medicinal qualities of select species, some of them very rare. For instance, Madagascar’s Aloe Macroclada is said to increase the stem cells in the human body once it has been ingested, more than any other substance on the planet! This same species is being propagated right at Ono! Then also consider the tropical soursop species. Parts of this species have been scientifically acknowledged with the ability to halt the spread of cancer cells in the human body. For all these reasons, and more, preserving biodiversity is so important.

My time at Ono Gardens is now complete. In conclusion, I’m grateful for the time well spent, and feel that in so many ways my experience has been so beneficial.

So how about yourself? Can you see yourself gracefully roaming about in “Ono-Land”? If you wish to have a more rarefied, firsthand experience of Ono and its educational attributes, you’ll definitely enjoy taking a prearranged tour. Apprenticeships, and the possibility of becoming a community member is also an option.

As a final word, may our souls be at peace and our days be graced with much joy and bliss!

Yours in health and longevity, I bid you adieu.


Loren Lewisohn