During the first week of February, I was across the Pacific in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. With the opportunity to travel to a tropical island I was not just thinking about beaches and mai tais. I immediately wondered what does the agricultural scene look like on the island? Are there any certified organic farms, what do they grow, where do they sell, and who are the farmers? I searched the internet for organic farms in Oahu, and only found a small handful.
I decided to reached out to MA’O Organic Farms, a non-profit that grows certified organic fruits and vegetables while cultivating youth leadership in the town of Waiʻanae. The awesome staff took time out of their busy day to give me a detailed tour of their amazing operation.
They grow beautiful kale, chard, bok choy, carrots, turnips, radishes, herbs, incredible salad greens, and more on 24 acres. Their harvest is sold to multiple restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, and their own CSA. To pull off this multi-faceted distribution they have one of the most efficient wash and pack houses I have ever seen. As you look into their wash house you see three lines of tables and racks with multiple water stations on each line where produce is cleaned, weighed, and bunched or bagged then later packed into boxes to fill the order that each final destination requires.
The efficiency of production and beautiful produce alone make this working farm a star in any region but it gets better. The farm is managed by Waiʻanae youth, ages 18-24, who are part-time organic farmers and full-time college students. As a teaching and learning farm, MAʻO adheres to its Hawaiian cultural values to care and nurture the land in perpetuity to grow, process, package, prepare and share food in ways that are sustainable and just. This farm is made up of many hands, who all have a part in making this place a rock star operation.