On the last Saturday of the month volunteers help Mao Organic Farms grow youth and community.
Mao Organic Farms is Oahu’s largest organic farm, growing salad greens, root vegetables and a variety of seasonal produce that supply some of Honolulu’s top restaurants and markets. However, Mao Farms’ fruits and vegetables may be the least important product grown on the farm.
Established in 2001 by a handful of determined Waianae residents seeking solutions for a community facing a changing rural lifestyle and dismal economic growth, the concept of a student centered farm was put forth as a way to proactively shape the future for Waianae youth. At Mao Farms, youth interns work 20 hours a week in exchange for a $500 monthly stipend and tuition waiver at a nearby community college. Under the guidance of farm manager, Gary Maunakea-Forth and his wife, Kukui Maunakea-Forth, who is the non-profit’s executive director, the internship program mentors students by fostering confidence and developing their skill set to succeed in college.
Surrounded by the lush Waianae mountain range, the farm sits in the back of a valley in west Oahu and is about a 45 mile drive from urban Honolulu. Once you get off H-1 freeway and onto Farrington highway, the last 20 miles hugs the west Oahu coast and offers some of the most gorgeous views of undeveloped shoreline. This is rural Oahu, and not an area accustomed to much visitor activity. But for those seeking a farm-work experience, the work day at Mao is a chance to meet local folks from the area and learn more about the deep connection between land, food and people from a native Hawaiian perspective.
On the last Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to Noon you can visit the farm as part of their G.I.V.E (Get Involved Volunteer Environmentally) Days. While work-farm tourism has taken hold in many regions of the U.S. mainland, the G.I.V.E. Days at Mao Farm are the only work-farm visits on Oahu that I’m aware of. If you’re looking for something that’s off-the-beaten path and an authentic experience that connects you in a very personal setting to a local community, and you don’t mind the hard work and heat, you may want to try G.I.V.E.
Note: There are no G.I.V.E. days this November and December. But you can meet the student interns and Mao Organic Farms organizers every Saturday at the KCC Farmers Market near Diamond Head. The market offers lots of prepared foods and Hawaii made products.
Video on Mao Farms: http://www.shareyourtable.com/multimedia/features/2009/mao_searider
About Melanie H. Kosaka
Melanie Kosaka is the owner and founder of ShareYourTable – a company specializing in culinary television production and interactive media. Her credits include the James Beard award winning series, The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, which has been distributed in 66 countries, New American Cuisine featuring star chefs from around the United States, and GetHealthyNowHawaii.com–an online based educational product. FDM has produced over 500 hours of cooking and lifestyle programming for national and international distribution.
Follow Melanie on Twitter at @shareyourtable