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And the Winners Are ... A CSA, an Organic Piggery, and a Mango Orchard


Soon, we could be ordering veggie subscription boxes filled with locally-grown figs, kale, broccoli, shallots, fennel and other produce. We may be eating more organic pork, raised on the Big Island. And if all goes really well, the winners of Kamehameha School's first agricultural business plan competition will have inspired more people to farm.

On Saturday, KS announced the winners of its Mahi ‘Ai Match-Up, geared towards putting innovative farmers on KS ag land. (KS owns about 215,000 acres of ag land throughout Hawaii.) Winners get five years rent free, plus a cash prize. The winners are a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business, an organic piggery, and an organic mango farm.

Jill Nordby, sisters Emily and Elisabeth Beagle, and Jamie Sexton of Oahu's Holoholo General Store, a CSA. Photos courtesy of Kamehameha Schools.

First place: Holoholo General Store, which received $25,000 to farm a 6-acre plot in Paalaa on the North Shore of Oahu. Three years ago, Jill Nordby and Jamie Sexton started Holoholo General Store, a veggie subscription service, culling produce from multiple farms. When they first started, trying to source a variety of fruits and vegetables "was a process for sure," Nordby says. "It was like I was on a scavenger hunt." Now, she has developed relationships with farms such as Twin Bridge Farms, which grows asparagus and other veggies for Holoholo's 200 or so customers.

Still, there are things that Nordby and her customers want that she can't get, like broccoli rabe, citrus and specialty items like shallots and fennel. "So it makes sense for us to expand our operations to include a farm," she says. "We're going to grow more specialty produce, things that are difficult to source from our farm partners currently." She plans on setting aside a quarter of her acreage for figs and citrus. "Figs are Hawaii's most lucrative crop right now," Nordby says.

She's teaming up with twin sisters Emily and Elisabeth Beagle, who will manage the farm. The sisters have been farming for the last five years in Yosemite, CA, growing 300 pounds of lettuce a week.

Max Bowman and Brandon Lee of Kaunamano Farms, a proposed Big Island piggery

Second place: Kaunamano Farms, awarded $15,000 and five years free rent on a 9.5 acre plot in Pahoehoe on the Big Island. Brandon Lee and Max Bowman, friends from Honokaa, hope to start an organic piggery. Since importing organic feed would be prohibitively expensive, Lee and Bowman plan to raise the pigs with feed grown onsite, stuff like bananas, papayas, avocados, breadfruit. (Bowman, who currently runs a 14-acre farm, is betting big on breadfruit. Nine acres on his current farm are being put into breadfruit. He says it's the next sweet potato, and way more productive; it's just a matter of time before you see breadfruit everything, he says.)

In addition to raising hogs sustainably, Bowman also hopes "to be a good incubator for the next generation, to show that we can do it—that it really is possible to maintain an agricultural economy and lifestyle. On Big Island, we have too much land and not enough farmers. It would be ideal if in five years we saw a resurgence of the rural lifestyle that we grew up with. We want to preserve and maintain that."

Kekamaikaikamaikalani Helm and Adolph Helm of Mapulehu Farms, a planned organic mango orchard on Molokai

Third place: Mapulehu Farms, awarded $10,000 and five years waived rent on 44 acres in Mapulehu, Molokai. Plans for this plot are an organic mango farm, offering farm tours to teach the community about Hawaiian-based farming practices and traditional varieties native to Mapulehu, Molokai.

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