STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
The Waianae operation is adding 11 acres to its five-acre Lualualei Valley site, which means more fruit, more vegetables and more jobs for Leeward Community College students.
Ma‘o Farms grows
Organic farm is set to expand with help of architect students
Mala 'Ai Opio Organic Farm, nearly a year after being selected by Whole Foods Market to be one of its suppliers in Hawaii, will be expanding its Waianae operations by 11 acres.
The certified organic farm, which is also a nonprofit organization that works with youth, will be acquiring the parcel adjacent to its current 5-acre Lualualei Valley site for $959,000 with 75 percent funding from the Legacy Lands Conservation Program.
Gary Maunakea-Forth, its managing director, says the new acreage is prime agriculture land that will allow the farm to triple its production, not only of greens, for which it is well known, but of orchard fruits.
The farm, also known as Ma'o Organic Farm, currently sells everything from certified organic arugula to baby romaine, Swiss chard, eggplants, Meyer lemons, Tahitian limes and clementine tangerines. With more land, it will be able to expand its offerings to include fennel, cucumber, tomato and pumpkins and bananas, for instance.
He said it would also allow the farm to support more than 2,000 youth a year, as well as provide 24 with paid-work scholarships to attend Leeward Community College next semester.
The parcel now belongs to a family that had used the lands previously for raising chickens. The family has waited patiently, he said, for the farm to get its funding together.
Ma'o plans to move its operations next door into a five-bedroom home that will be transformed into offices. A chicken shed will be converted into a packing facility, and there also might be a visitor center, complete with a restaurant, farmers' market and meeting space.
Second-year design studio students at the University of Hawaii School of Architecture are offering their sustainable-design expertise for the farm's expansion.
"It gets our students to really show up their design skills, but even more importantly, it gets them to understand through this profession of architecture, that they can contribute in ways much larger than themselves," said Stephen Meder, professor and director of the center for smart building and community design.
He said students' plans include using materials appropriate for the place, incorporating natural ventilation, and orienting the buildings for solar energy.
Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth of Ma'o Farm will make the final decision on their expansion plans.
"It is our goal to not only provide the local market with the freshest organic fruits and vegetables, but to do it in a way that grows the culture of agriculture," said Gary Maunakea-Forth. "In my view, sustainable design is the key first step in making local agriculture economically viable."
Whole Foods Market opens its first Hawaii store at Kahala Mall this year, followed by additional store openings at Ward, Kailua and Maui.
Ma'o Farm got its start in 2001, and is a regular vendor at the Hawaii Farm Bureau's market Saturday mornings at Kapiolani Community College. Its clients include chef Alan Wong and Down to Earth Natural Foods.