KS, Kohala Center launch Mahiai a Ola ag initiative

  • Kamehameha Schools’ new Mahiai a Ola program will support local farmers like Tom Menezes, farmer and owner of Hawaiian Crown Plantation, by promoting agricultural education, and innovative solutions to improve food security in Hawaii. (Courtesy photo / Kamehameha Schools)

HILO — Kamehameha Schools and the Kohala Center on Monday launched Mahiai a Ola, a campaign to support local farmers, agricultural education, and innovative solutions to improve food security in Hawaii.

Mahiai a Ola is an initiative that evolved from the Mahiai Match-Up program as an opportunity to increase agricultural awareness in support of the farming industry, while reinvigorating innovation, community connections, and a commitment to future generations, according to a news announcement from Kamehameha Schools.


“When you break down the concept of mahiai — it’s about the energy and the vigor of working with the land. It’s also part of the word aina,” said Marissa Harman, Kamehameha Schools asset management director on Hawaii Island.

“Together, it’s about sustaining oneself, one’s community — feeding the mind, body, and spirit.”

Mahiai a Ola is made up of three programs:

• Mahiai Match-Up — an agricultural business plan competition in which the winner is awarded a five-year land agreement with Kamehameha Schools and a $10,000 cash prize donated by Ulupono Initiative. The winner will also have the support of KS land asset managers, along with wrap-around business services and financial guidance from The Kohala Center. Applications for the contest are due by Sept. 20.

• Mahiai a Ao — scholarship awards for various agriculture-related educational programs, in partnership with GoFarm Hawaii.

• MahiX — An open innovation challenge seeking cooperative solutions to Hawaii’s most pressing agricultural issues.

Mahiai a Ola is an aina-based lifestyle concept that is not about living to eat but rather eating to live.

In the larger food system, farmers don’t just cultivate food, they cultivate minds, families, and communities.

“The Mahiai a Ola initiative is truly a unique opportunity for our Hawaii Island farmers,” said Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui, president and chief executive officer of the Kohala Center. “Not only will we be able to grow more local food, but we can grow more viable mahiai working with aina as a meaningful way of life in Hawaii. It takes hard work, resources, innovation, and a love for the land to feed our families, neighbors, and communities. This is mahiai a ola.

“The Mahiai a Ola campaign unites friends and farmers to strengthen our relationship with food for the greater health and well-being of our communities and aina.”

Kamehameha Schools stewards more than 160,000 acres of agricultural land on Hawaii Island. Farmers raise a variety of crops such as papaya, bananas, vegetables, ulu, Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, cacao and livestock such as pigs and cattle on those lands.

Since 2013, Kamehameha Schools has sought innovative farmers through the Mahiai Match-Up business plan competition and provided them with a financial boost to increase their long-term chances of sustainable success.

Alongside these efforts, the Kohala Center has worked to support the Hawaii island food system with farmer training programs, youth education initiatives, and rural and cooperative business development services to inspire and help future generations of food producers.

Funds raised on behalf of Mahiai a Ola will provide scholarships and funding for new and innovative ideas and initiatives that support agriculture and food security.


“Because farmers, like students, thrive in a healthy environment, Mahiai a Ola is about more than land and money; it is about honoring our mahiai as exemplars in our community, true lahui lifters, who not only grow food but provide sustenance for all,” Harman said.

To learn more about Mahiai a Ola or to enter the Mahiai Match-up business plan competition, visit ksbe.edu/mahiai.

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