Philanthropy: No Panic… Go Organic

Presented by Hawai‘i Community Foundation: Connecting Keiki to the ‘Aina: MA‘O and HCF.
Youth help to harvest organic greens at Ma‘o Farms.


If you’ve been to a farmer’s market, perused a grocery produce section, or read a menu at a farm-to-table restaurant, you already know MA‘O — the fresh greens, fruits, and vegetables that come from Wai‘anae, with a hint of local dirt still on the roots. 


What you may not know is that those local foods aren’t just sustaining you. They sustain a culture, a way of life, and the futures of under-privileged youth. Established in 2001, MA‘O (Mala‘Ai‘Opio or “youth food garden”) aligns two assets — our land and our youth — to find a way out of the cultural, social, economic, and environmental poverty gripping the Leeward Coast. 


“To work and live in Wai‘anae means that like the generations before me, I’m giving back to my community,” said student farmer Hilda Tauvala. MA‘O isn’t a field trip. It’s a commitment to sustainable agriculture and their community. They get their hands dirty, sweat under the hot sun, and feel the accomplishment that comes from a bumper crop well-tended. 


Founders of Ma‘o Farms Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth.


MA‘O embodies everything HCF looks for: empowered youth, a sustainable future, cultural heritage preservation, health and well-being, and a positive impact on the state’s local economy. Collectively through various funds, HCF has granted over $1 million to the work of MA‘O and the expansion of its programs. “We’ve benefited from the depth and breadth of the Foundation’s mentorship and expertise,” said Kukui Maunakea-Forth, MA‘O’s co-founder. “Our work is to create a Wai‘anae that our children and grandchildren will want to call home.”  For HCF and its funders, that’s a job well done. 

  Hawaii Community Foundation

Did you know?  HCF has granted over $1 million to support MA‘O’s programs including the Ho‘owaiwai Youth Leadership Training for college students, the Farm to Fork program, and a collaborative partnership with the Wai‘anae High School Searider Productions.


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