KS, Kohala Center launch Mahi‘ai a Ola ag initiative

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

Mahi‘ai a Ola is an initiative that evolved from the Mahi‘ai 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 mahi‘ai — 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.”

Mahi‘ai a Ola is made up of three programs:

• Mahi‘ai 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.

• Mahi‘ai 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.

Mahi‘ai 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 Mahi‘ai a Ola initiative is truly a unique opportunity for our Hawaii Island farmers,” said Cheryl Ka‘uhane 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 mahi‘ai 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 mahi‘ai a ola.

“The Mahi‘ai 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 Mahi‘ai 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 Mahi‘ai 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, Mahi‘ai a Ola is about more than land and money; it is about honoring our mahi‘ai as exemplars in our community, true lahui lifters, who not only grow food but provide sustenance for all,” Harman said.

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

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