Planting Seeds of Change at OAHU "Youth Garden"
MA’O Organic Farms empowers local kids to return to the land and guide their future.
If you tell people in Oahu that you’re going to Wai’anae, they’ll tell you to lock your doors. As you might imagine, the small town on the west side of the island doesn’t exactly have the best reputation thanks to high rates of homelessness, unemployment, and high school drop-outs. That’s why it’s so surprising to find an amazing certified organic farm nestled at the foot of the Wai’anae Mountains. MA’O Organic Farms opened over a decade ago and, like South Central Farmers in Los Angeles, they’re not just growing food. They’re changing the way an entire community eats.
MA’O is actually an acronym that stands for Māla ʻai ʻŌpio, which means “youth garden” in Hawaiian, and the mission of the farm is to empower the young people of Wai’anae to look to the land they’ve grown up on as the way to a better future.
As Education Resource Specialist Kamuela “Kamu” Enos says, “Growing food here is a social act.” In addition to growing 35 to 45 organic fruits and vegetables on 25 acres of farmland, MA’O has an extensive internship program in conjunction with local colleges that teaches students to become organic farmers and farm managers. So far, the farm has put 50 kids through college and the rest of the nation is taking notice. First Lady Michelle Obama has already visited the farm twice.
Enos claims that organic food will eventually be the cornerstone of Hawaiian society and the trade winds already seem to be shifting in that direction. The farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program has 115 subscribers and almost every big name Hawaiian chef from Alan Wong to Roy Yamaguchi serves MA’O produce on their menus.
You can also get MA’O produce at three different farmers’ markets, various grocery stores, and the holy grail of organics: Whole Foods. The next time you head down to Oahu, get away from the glitzy commercialism of Waikiki and make a special trip to Wai’anae to check out MA’O Organic Farms. You won’t even have to lock your doors.
MA`O Organic Farms
86-210 Puhawai Rd.
Wai‘anae, HI 96792
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