Honolulu - (May 6, 2019) – The Waiʻanae Community Re-Development Corporation (WCRC) and its dba MAʻO Organic Farms (MAʻO), Kamehameha Schools (KS) and Central Pacific Bank (CPB) announced an unprecedented collaboration to facilitate expansion of MAʻO’s social enterprise program and farm operation in Lualualei, Waiʻanae. The collaboration allows MAʻO to acquire 236 acres of land through a guaranteed loan agreement with CPB expanding its current 45-acre operation to 281 acres, making MAʻO the eighth largest landowner and the fourth largest private landowner in Waiʻanae.
With this land acquisition, MAʻO will become the community steward of this important agricultural resource which has been fallow since the 1980s. Through the farm’s physical expansion, MAʻO will also scale its community impact by growing its youth leadership training programs fourfold and organic food production tenfold while creating an estimated 75 green-collar jobs, developing an agricultural housing project, and forging a more financially sustainable organizational future through an expanded earned revenue.
“Our endeavor to secure and steward this ʻāina in perpetuity is made possible because of the mutual respect, aloha and willingness to turn our hands to the work together,” said MAʻO Executive Director and Co-Founder, Kukui Maunakea-Forth. “We are grateful to our collaborators at Kamehameha Schools and at Central Pacific Bank for their partnership to grow empowered youth leadership and good food for our communities.”
“This collaboration with MAʻO is part of KS’ strategic approach to improve Hawai‘i’s educational ecosystem by looking at innovative ways to empower community champions who are doing gamechanging work deep in our communities,” said Kamuela Cobb-Adams, senior director of KS’ Community Engagement and Resources, O’ahu Region. “It is our kuleana to stand with community partners like MAʻO who work tirelessly to uplift their community of Waiʻanae and ultimately the entire lāhui.”
MAʻO’s approach to food production is grounded in the empowerment of local youth, as new leadership is imperative to the future of both the sustainable food movement and the broader community. As a non-profit, WCRC and MAʻO Organic Farms has been serving the youth of Waiʻanae, Oʻahu since 2001, through a series of educational programs, including an on-farm to college two-year internship that provides a stipend and full tuition support for students at the University of Hawaiʻi Leeward Community College, UH West Oʻahu or UH Mānoa.
MAʻOʻs Hoʻowaiwai Youth Leadership Training (HYLT) intern and Leeward Community College student, Kiana Tector is pursuing a degree in dietetics and nutrition.
“I get the experience of working on an organic farm, a place where we’re surrounded by likeminded people which allows us to thrive in a place where people won’t doubt us, and people will listen,” said Tector.
“It feels good knowing how food is grown and the positive impact it has on people in the community, not just in Waiʻanae, but throughout the islands.”
The organization has graduated over 100 interns with Associate of Arts degrees and 25 with their Bachelor of Art degrees to date; several graduates of the program currently manage the 45-acre organic farm and youth training program, which supplies over 2 tons of fresh organic produce a week to farmers markets, grocery and natural foods stores and locavore restaurants on Oʻahu.
“Twelve-years ago I came to MAʻO as a Waiʻanae high school senior, I wanted to go to college, to connect with my Hawaiian culture, and do something for my community,” stated Kaui Sana, MAʻO’s current farm manager, and a past Kamehameha Schools First Nations Future’s Fellow who was born and raised in Lualualei Valley. “Through MAʻO I got to travel and I earned a college degree. With other young people, amongst the mentorship of elders – and now with more land – I’m committed to helping lead the renaissance in Hawaiian organic food production.”
CPB understood the desired outcomes of this expansion and of MAʻO’s business and rose to the top in shared commitment to making a positive difference in the community and in people’s lives.
“True to the legacy of its grassroots founding 65 years ago by WWII veterans to provide equitable help and hope for all of Hawaiʻi’s people—CPB was also deeply inspired to work in collaboration with MAʻO and KS,” said Mike Kim, vice president and Business Banking team manager.