Farm nurtures social awareness


POSTED: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the new world of social enterprise, projects cast a wide swath. A farm project can double as an educational endeavor; it can work toward profitability as a business yet operate with the guiding values of a social program. It can meet its aspirations to provide socially and environmentally conscious food by networking with other businesses outside farming, such as markets and restaurants. And it can find success — on all these levels.

Welcome to the world of Mala 'Ai Opio organic farm, better known as MA'O, now in its seventh year of operations in Waianae and thriving. In fact, MA'O is celebrating tomorrow the acquisition of 11 acres of land in Lualualei Valley, thanks to $737,000 in grants from the State Legacy Land Conservation Fund and the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation. Assistance to acquire funding came from the national Trust for Public Land Hawaiian Island Program. The new land brings MA'O's acreage to 16.

“;Drive up the road and you can see a huge difference,”; says managing director Gary Maunakea-Forth. Prior to the expansion, the farm's processing space was a lean-to shed with a plywood roof and an 8-by-12-foot refrigerator. Now MA'O boasts an actual processing facility, a converted chicken shed from the site's earlier incarnation as a chicken farm.

“;It was an incredibly well-built chicken shed,”; Maunakea-Forth quips.

Refrigeration space has also expanded to a 24-by-12-foot container to house greens such as arugula, romaine lettuce, mizuna, mustard greens, tat soi, pak choy, collard greens, various kinds of kale and Swiss chard. The farm also grows root vegetables, eggplant, mangoes, citrus fruit, bananas and corn. Up next: beans, peas, cucumber, tomatoes and pumpkin.

“;Now the farm has a lot more capacity to produce,”; says Maunakea-Forth. “;We have 14 customers who want more stuff already and a waiting list of more than 30 new customers.”;

Chef Ed Kenney of Town and Downtown@ the HiSAM restaurants has been doing business with Maunakea-Forth since MA'O's earliest days. Kenney says he was drawn to the farm because of its socially conscious platform.

“;At the time, I was running the YWCA restaurant on Richards Street. MA'O was a nonprofit ... that offered life-training skills within the context of a farm. The YWCA has a similar concept,”; he says. “;That farmer/chef relationship has now grown into a really good friendship.”;

Kenney will be providing fare for the dedication tomorrow using locally sourced ingredients, along with other MA'O clients including Roy's (Honey Glazed Pork), Nobu's (sukiyaki) and Umeke Market (kale salad).

Kenney's crew will present Italian porchetta, a whole 130-pound pig on a spit, deboned and filled with garlic and herbs, then roasted for 12 hours.

“;The kiawe and herbs are from the farm, the pig is from Waianae — all the ingredients are from either Waianae or MA'O. It's from the community, for the community,”; he says.

When MA'O leased its first piece of land in 2001, they were notable for their multidisciplinary aspirations. “;Back then it was called community-based economic development,”; Maunakea-Forth recalls. The farmer, his wife, Kukui (now executive director), and a dozen or so friends came up with the concept of MA'O in response to Waianae's dismal economic condition.

“;Waianae has missed every economic trend Hawaii had to offer, from large-scale farming to tourism. Welfare has been the biggest (financial contributor) coming in,”; he says. “;There's been lots of negative environmental things and negative people things.”;

In continuing to buck — and change — those trends, MA'O continues to prove that its social-business model can, and does, thrive.

“;The land is now sustainable. We're making pretty good money, paying the bills and putting a little bit back into the farm. Our goal is to put 50 percent back into the entire program, to become a $1.5 million organization and put back $500,000 to $750,000,”; he says.

MA'O continues its mission to help the youth of Waianae from middle school on up. A foundation of the program is enrolling its young interns in two-year colleges; most recently, it has begun encouraging students to pursue four-year degrees.

The larger point to all this, says Maunakea-Forth, is for educated young adults to “;return to Waianae to put back into the community.”;

“;Our objectives are not hard if young people are motivated, and they usually are. Our kids grow up in the country, and this reminds them that the land is an important part of our value system. The fact that Lualualei is one of the most pristine valleys on earth and has one of the richest soils in the world fills them with a sense of pride.

“;We're set up as a nonprofit to show that if you give a lot back to the community, it doesn't necessarily take away from profits,”; he continues. “;The concept of the socially conscious entrepreneur has been anchored by the election of Obama. There's a triple bottom line here: profits, people and the planet.”;


Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder Stuffed with Herbs

Courtesy Ed Kenney, Town and Downtown@ the HiSAM restaurants

6-pound boneless pork shoulder
8 cloves garlic, peeled
Zest of 3 lemons
1 cup parsley, loosely packed
1/4 cup sage leaves, loosely packed
1/4 cup rosemary, loosely packed
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
Butcher twine
Stock or water

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Butterfly pork butt, cutting in spiral fashion that results in large, 1- to 2-inch-thick rectangle.

Bash the garlic, zest, parsley, sage leaves, rosemary, cheese, fennel seeds, pepper, salt and red pepper in a mortar and pestle or food processor, adding olive oil as you go.

Spread herb mixture on pork. Roll pork back into original shape and tie with butcher twine at 1-inch intervals.

Place chopped onions, carrots and celery in roasting pan large enough to hold pork. Place pork on top of vegetables and season with more salt and pepper. Pour 1 inch of stock or water in pan.

Place in oven and roast for 5 hours. In last 15 to 30 minutes, raise heat to 500 degrees and crisp pork.

Remove from oven and allow roast to rest 30 minutes before carving. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 1,000 calories, 77 g total fat, 25 g saturated fat, 170 mg cholesterol, greater than 3,000 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 62 g protein.