MA‘O Farms Video Produced by Searider Productions
From vegetal to digital Wai‘anae youth are doing amazing work
By Martha Cheng
What good is the ‘keep the country country’ momentum when no one is farming?”Currently, thirty-two young adults from the Waianae community work on the farm, from planting to harvesting to selling at farmers’ markets. They are hired as part of MA‘O’s Youth Leadership Training (YLT) program. Interns work on the farm 20 hours a week and are given a $500 monthly stipend and a tuition waiver to Leeward Community College. Many of the interns are first-generation college attendees.
While organic farming requirements are usually framed as negatives—no synthetic chemicals, no pesticides, no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)—MA‘O has always focused on the positives. MA‘O actively builds healthy soils, plants and community. It all started when Farm Manager Gary Maunakea-Forth says he, his wife, Executive Director Kukui Maunakea-Forth, and other community members decided to put down their picket signs and take a more active role in preserving the rural community. “What good is the ‘keep the country country’ momentum when no one is farming,” he says. “If we’re farming and making money and providing food for people, it’s a proactive way to really help the community and shape [our] environmental vision.”
MA‘O’s philosophy is perhaps best reflected in the Hawaiian proverb:
Ne huli ka lima iluna, pololi ka opu;
Ne huli ka lima ilalo, piha ka opu.
When your hands are turned up, you will be hungry;
When your hands are turned to the soil, you will be full.
In 2001, MA‘O leased their first five acres of land, and recently, in May, acquired an adjacent 11-acre parcel of organic agriculture land. Maunakea-Forth talks of experimenting with different kinds of broccoli and cauliflower that come in shades of purple and yellow, planting an orchard of fig trees, and bringing in poultry for free-range eggs. And ever with the community in mind, there are plans for a community village on the new land that might include a café, market, teaching kitchen and a courtyard where educational programs can take place among the beautiful mountains of the Lualualei Valley.
Kaimana Pine of the Waianae Community Development Corporation (WCRC), MA‘O’s umbrella organization whose mission is to develop a self-sufficient Leeward coast, said in a press release, “The accomplishments of Wai‘anae youth are tremendous; the recent land acquisition will help further the practices of sustainable agriculture handed down from previous generations. With supporters and community the movement continues in a larger capacity, and promises that we’ll continue to invest our time and mana‘o into our youth and their future.”
Comments from Readers
Kainoa and the Aila `Ohana, father William Jr and William Sr. continually provide inspiration and aspiration to the place, people, and purpose that MA`O represents. Mahalo to our Searider Production's 'ohana for portraying the real Wai`anae moku "vegetal to digital". No panic, go organic!
Mahalo for your time and words Martha! We look forward to hearing more about your passion for our food system and how it connects us all. No panic, Go organic! Aloha!
As our children are learning,we can also learn from them.Stay connected to the land thats where the roots usually are, proud to be part of MA'O and there mission.
good job martha, you might be farmer material yourself