Our day started at MAʻO Farms tour with Kamuela Enos, Social Enterprise Director of the Mala ʻAi ʻOpio Community Food Systems Initiative. MAʻO produces high quality organic produce for Hawaii’s restaurants, stores, farmers markets, and Community Support Agriculture (CSA) customers. The most important aspect of their farm is the investment in the next generation from the Wai’anae area. Its farmers are primarily students and residents of Waiʻanae who are trained to be culturally rooted and communally relevant social entrepreneurs and leaders. Tuition scholarships are provided annually to many of the students who work on the farm. Most students receive degrees and continue their agriculture education and careers. The farm has acquired additional acres to expand their production and educational programs within this community.
Our next stop was at the University of Hawai‘i West O’ahu to discuss Sustainable Community Food Systems with Albie Miles, assistant professor, Sustainable Community Food Systems. Dr. Miles continues to set new levels of curriculum on sustainable food systems as he educates students at the University of Hawaii. Curriculum is extensive and covers all aspects of developing a food system from earth to table. Everyone found the presentation enlightening and informative.
We continued our day by visiting Sugarland Growers. Larry Jefts owns and manages Sugarland Growers, which is one of Hawaii’s largest diversified crop operations. The company’s history began with Akea Farms in 1971. The farm began in Molokaʻi, featuring cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, and other crops. The farm business was able to expand beyond Molokaʻi and on to the old Oʻahu sugar cane and pineapple farm lands, and become what is known today as Sugarland Growers, Inc. Its crops include bananas, green bell peppers, cabbages, Chinese cabbages, cucumbers, several varieties of tomatoes, and several varieties of watermelons. The farm operates approximately 2000 acres and utilized state of the art equipment to sort, wash, and package their crops. Everyone enjoyed the candor and conversation with Larry Jefts as he shared his long term perspective of Hawaii agriculture.
From Sugarland Growers we travelled a short journey to Kunia Village where we met with Stevie Whalen, Hawa‘i Agriculture Research Foundation, Executive Director. We reviewed their agriculture family living complex and the benefits to the farming families of Hawaii. We also visited several commercial agriculture support sights which they offer to agriculture related industries. One of the sights included an Aquaponic operation in conjunction with a Rum Distillery. The two operations are ran by Jason Brand who was a most gracious host. We enjoyed learning about the aquaponic industry and the trials and tribulations Jason went through to arrive at his present, high efficiency operation. We also had the opportunity to learn about his distillery and sugarcane production for it. His value added rum operation and business model was very well received by all.