Building Common Ground
Common Ground takes root in sites of stunning beauty and distinctive history. We seek rich, vital, and diverse communities. We tap into unique natural ecologies to realize a vision for the future sown into the land’s past. Our vision to shape human ecologies in harmony with the environment, connected beyond their natural borders.
We begin with place…
It is here, on the north shore of Kaua'i, that sets the table for conversations and interactions about how we eat, how we connect, how we solve challenges, and how we leave a better future for this planet.
Common Ground thrives on a former sugar plantation and guava farm, nestled in an amphitheater of natural beauty. These stunning grounds provide the stage for us as a movement—a human-centered collective of conscious communities with a self-aware and sustainable relationship to the land.
Through a lens of both local practices and global perspectives, our campus becomes a platform where intersections can ignite passions and purposes that ripple outward from our immediate circles.
Food grows connections
We believe food is the great connector. More than any other facet of life, the age-old traditions of food have a tried-and-true ability to bring a diversity of people—presidents, artists, dishwashers, farmers, movie stars, kama'āina (locals), and visitors—literally under the same roof.
As one of humankind’s most basic needs, food provides a space to imagine solutions. Because rethinking, altering, and optimizing our relationship to the economics of food is paramount. We know structural shifts in the business of food are needed to realize these benefits. Common Ground aims to do this by connecting players along the value chain of food supply. We can fortify this bond of great connection through food, to bring phenomenal people here, showcase food innovation and community innovation, and prove how societies can find common ground.
We also want to think about connectivity in a world that is burdened by divisions. By unifying art, technology, world-class thinkers, and thought-provoking events dedicated to the future of food and society, we can heal, sustain, and innovate ways toward understanding and mutual support. The draw may be food, but the scope of Common Ground is nothing short of building global communities to change the world.
The seeds of community
Common Ground finds community through its team of neighbors, farmers, small businesses, and government. Through these collaborations, ideas grow into real solutions.
Common Ground started with planting a tropical agroforest, mimicking a wild forest with multiple tiers of crops, from ‘ulu (breadfruit) to kava, leading to greater biodiversity and more resilience, especially in the face of climate change. Common Ground hopes the agroforest can be a model of regenerative agriculture, a beyond-organic holistic system that builds thriving soil, plants, and humans, with the idea that what is good for one is good for all. This, in essence, is the mission of Common Ground.
We have also built a Food Innovation Center, a community food hub and incubator for farmers and food entrepreneurs. Common Ground has already ushered in its first cohort of Kaua'i businesses to help scale their efforts to reach a larger audience. And eventually, the company plans on building a farm-to-table restaurant to bring in eaters and complete the circle.
On the campus, Common Ground can present a different and transparent model, one where you can actually explain and see the value chain that’s fully integrated, that’s sustainable, that’s organic, that’s equitable in terms of everybody from the farmer to the food entrepreneur to the distributor.
Why Kaua'i is the blueprint
To the wild north shore of Kaua'i, the most isolated island of the already remote main Hawaiian archipelago, immigrant farm workers came from Asia to Europe to build new lives. More than a century ago, they arrived to work on Kīlauea’s sugar plantation, and it is their legacies, along with the Native Hawaiians who originally cultivated the land, that have led to present-day Kaua'i—a place where a fifth-generation kalo (taro) farmer tends lo‘i in Hanalei and sells taro smoothies from a food truck, and where a cacao farmer, the great-grandson of a botanist who came to Hawaii in 1850, hopes to change the world of chocolate.
Is it ironic to promote connectivity in such a remote place? Kaua'i, along with tiny Ni'ihau, are the only Hawaiian islands that King Kamehameha could not conquer in his quest for unification. To this day, Kaua'i, cut off from its neighbors to the south by the deepest and widest of the main Hawaiian channels, possesses a fierce independence, a resistance to outside influences. The Hawaiian Islands, and especially Kaua'i, seem to have evolved separately from the rest of the world. You can see it in its plants, its animals, its traditions. It is a place removed from a world rife with distractions, where focus turns to the land, to food, to community.
But this isolation is also its very lure to the outside world. The pandemic exposed a complex and broken food system, maximized for efficiency at the expense of equity and resiliency: crops were destroyed in the field as grocery shelves lay bare and lines at the food banks grew ever longer. It is challenges like these that prime us to interrogate our island economy and discover how and why solutions based in food security and agriculture must be the way forward. As we hurtle toward the future, it’s time to urgently rethink our current food systems. By honoring Hawaii’s agricultural legacies and investing in a circular food economy, we can spark a process toward equitable food chains for the rest of the world. Kaua'i’s vulnerabilities are also its strengths. Its past is also its future. It is in this fertile foundation that Common Ground will take root.