As you drive up the Wai'anae Coast, especially coming from Honolulu, you might notice a wonderful sense of vibrancy growing as you go further west. This invigorating feeling intensifies as you pull up to the seemingly quiet fields of Ma’o Organic Farms. As you look up into the incredibly dry Wai’anae Range in the background, you may be surprised that anything grows out here, let alone a commercial farm that sells a huge volume of produce. You can feel that something very special must be happening here to not only survive but to flourish. Ma’o is definitely doing something special.
If you’re not familiar with Ma’o Organic Farms, they are a socially conscious organization, set up to serve the needs of the local Wai’anae community with special emphasis towards helping local underprivileged youth learn sustainable, organic agriculture and development. Underlining their mission is a commitment to do everything with the spirit and heart of Hawaiian culture. Ma’o shows its young workers not only how to make a farm work but allows them to be full, respected stakeholders in the process, providing a much needed honorable purpose to many. Their amazing efforts have been well documented from winning non-profit awards to having a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama. Despite all the attention and accolades, Ma’o does an amazing job in sticking with its roots and making that apparent in everything they do.
The Down to Earth Produce team was lucky enough to visit Ma’o recently to tour the property and to talk story. Showing us around was the Farm Operations Director and co-founder of Ma’o Organic Farms, Gary Maunakea-Forth. That something special you’re feeling is coming off in waves straight from Gary. He manages to make you feel relaxed and excited instantly. His unassuming, friendly manner will make you feel like you’ve been buds forever. As soon as he gets through the pleasantries, he gives you the full run down of what’s going on at the farm like you’re a part of the team. Walking through the fields, he seems to know each plant, each leaf, each fruit, each seed. Progressing through the fields, we find that this generous spirit from Gary is not exclusive to him… everybody (and we do mean everybody) seems to generate this infectious energy. They’re all excited about the organic produce they’re growing out there. Each person has their favorite plant, their favorite way to cook with it – the sense of ownership, pride, and hard work is pretty apparent. Not satisfied to just provide the same produce as everyone else, the folks at Ma’o listen to their customers’ needs and requests and will often dedicate a small field for special requests. Constantly experimenting with different produce, they never stray away from their commitment to being organic. In fact, their slogan is “No Panic, Go Organic!” and this phrase is not taken lightly. This is why Ma’o Organic Farms is one of our favorite local farms – providing high quality, local, organic produce as well as an incredibly inspirational mission and spirit.
You can buy Ma’o Organic Farms produce at any Down to Earth location on Oahu. They sell a wide range of products from bunched kale to bags of salad mixes. For more information on this incredible farm, please visit their website at maoorganicfarms.org.