Social Encore: Yogarden Fest grows sustainability

May. 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Ever thought about doing something, but never really knew where to look or how to get started?

Yogarden Festival co-founders Paul Izak and Kelly Stern. (Courtesy Paul Izak)

Yogarden Festival co-founders Paul Izak and Kelly Stern. (Courtesy Paul Izak)

When I ask myself those questions, the first thing that comes to mind is contributing to Hawaii’s sustainability movement. If you ever wanted to learn more about gardening and yoga while enjoying local vendors, arts and music, you’ll want to check out the Yogarden Festival this weekend at Green Rows Farm in Waimanalo.

The idea for the festival began about five years ago when co-founder Paul Izak traveled to the mainland to attend consciousness and transformational festivals. Born and raised in Hawaii, the positive energy that surrounded health and wellness at these festivals was something the musician felt he needed to bring home.

“These festivals were helping people with their awareness when it came to things like yoga and gardening … and were using things like music to have fun and to celebrate,” he said.

Izak started gathering people on a weekly basis at what he called “drum circles.” He would bring drums to a beach and invite others to join in. The drum circles started to create a productive learning environment that encouraged him to venture out and create a community.

Excited with the concept, Izak asked Kelly Stern to help him bring his idea to life. Stern grew up in St. Augustine, Fla. and moved to Hawaii to follow her passions for yoga, gardening and healthy eating. A raw food and vegan chef, Stern partnered with friend Crystal Smith and Izak to create events at the old Tiare’s in Kailua. Hosting monthly events with music and supporting local retail and farm businesses along with yoga and food earned the three tons of positive feedback from the Kailua community.

“I didn’t realize how hungry the community was for conscious gatherings like this until we started creating them,” said Stern. “We would have things like local vendors that use local products, local kava, local Kombucha and incorporated gardening as well by giving away plants.”

There will be seven different classes at the Yogarden Festival, such as Acro Yoga, Ashtanga and Asana. (Courtesy Kelly Stern)

There will be seven different classes at the Yogarden Festival, such as Acro Yoga, Ashtanga and Asana. (Courtesy Kelly Stern)

Creating an ohana with others interested in the same subjects caused Izak and Stern to realize how much of an impact they were making.

“You end up meeting people that are like minded in health, wellness, gardening and celebrating with music,” said Stern. “These relationships, become connections that become life relationships.”

Izak and Stern said more than 80 percent of Hawaii’s food supply is imported, so residents should be more aware of gardening, local-grown food and yoga when it comes to living a healthier and sustainable lifestyle. Izak added that in Hawaii, we learn about the ahapuaʻa system, and since we are living in a new era it is up to us to tap back into a tradition that had worked for thousands of years.

“Sustainability starts within yourself and to line of all the things at festival together, it brings a sense of awareness and experiences within all of these subjects,” he said. “There is a lot of diversity in Hawaii where we need to embrace it, see how we best can evolved and move forward towards progression.”

Yogarden believes in sustainability and gave away over 1,400 plants, including papaya, kale and lilikoi during the 2013 Kailua Fourth of July Parade. (Courtesy Paul Izak)

Yogarden believes in sustainability and gave away over 1,400 plants, including papaya, kale and lilikoi during the 2013 Kailua Fourth of July Parade. (Courtesy Paul Izak)

The pair also hope the festival catches the eye of politicians so they can help push for more initiatives that will cultivate a culture that supports and protects Hawaii’s land and natural resources. They also hope it helps to create programs that support the concept of eco-communities, community gardens and young farmers.

“Once this starts happening, it will become more of a norm and politicians will see that this is an important movement,” said Izak. “I believe if politicians were to see how much of an impact this festival has, the more bills that promote sustainability will be recognized and passed.”

“We live on a tropical island where we have perfect growing conditions,” Stern said. “So many people buy from corporate grocery stores because they offer cheaper prices but a lot of stuff are harvested extremely early, may have grown in soil where chemicals were used, are re-refrigerated and have lost their nutrients.”

Local art will be part of this weekend's Yogarden Festival. (Courtesy Kelly Stern)

Local art will be part of this weekend’s Yogarden Festival. (Courtesy Kelly Stern)

This weekend, you can take a Vinyasa yoga class with Brigitte Synder, learn about conscious nutrition with Jessica Quinn or permaculture opportunities with Green Row farms, enjoy a live performance by Mike Love and even see what it takes to raise chickens in your own yard. This family-friendly event will also offer free massages, food vendors with dishes made from local produce, a community mural painting and crafts for the keiki.

“This festival represents something that we have always believed in,” said Stern. “This will help bring a focus on a better Hawaii.”

For more information about the festival’s schedule, visit the festival’s website. A limited number of tickets are available and can only be purchased online.
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Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.

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