East Hawaii farmer receives $10K, five-year land agreement

  • The Kodani farm. (Courtesy photo)

Kamehameha Schools and The Kohala Center announced Mana ‘Olena as the winner of the Mahi‘ai Match-Up business plan competition at a Farm-to-Table Celebration on Friday night.

Mana ‘Olena will receive a $10,000 cash prize donated by Ulupono Initiative, waived rent for five years on KS land in Hilo, and wrap-around business support services from The Kohala Center.

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The award is part of a larger Mahi‘ai a Ola campaign that aims to revitalize Hawaii’s farming industry and grow the next generation of farmers.

“Mahi‘ai a Ola encompasses the deeper meaning of mahi‘ai — the idea of cultivating an ‘aina-based lifestyle, a way of thinking, and a relationship with ‘aina,” said Alapaki Nahale-a, Kamehameha Schools’ senior director of community engagement and resources for Hawaii Island. “We’re encouraging connecting with ‘aina to support our state’s agriculture industry and the farmers who cultivate minds, families, and communities.”

Mana ‘Olena is a family-owned farm business operated by East Hawaii farmer Richard Kodani and his son and daughter-in-law, Nicholas Kodani and Chie Homma.

The operation will specialize in growing two original “canoe plants” — plants that traveled with ancient Polynesians across the Pacific to the Hawaiian islands — including certified organic orange and black ‘Olena and conventional ‘ulu. Both crops are significant to Native Hawaiians as food and medicine.

Mana ‘Olena’s commercial production of organic turmeric will help to meet a steadily increasing worldwide demand for turmeric products such as cosmetics, dietary supplements and food products.

“Mana ‘Olena strives to serve as a mentor for the next generation of farmers and fulfill the mission of Mahi‘ai a Ola,” said Richard Kodani, who currently farms 23 acres of land licensed from KS at Pahoehoe just north of Hilo.

The other Mahi‘ai Match-Up finalists were: Mamaki Native Hawaiian Herbal Tea and Puna Lei Vanilla.

The Kohala Center also presented $5,000 to GoFarm Hawaii for its Statewide Beginning Farmer Training Program as part of the Mahi‘ai a Ao Scholarship campaign, which provides financial support to individuals interested in pursuing a certificate, community college, or university degree in an agriculture-related field.

“Mahi‘ai a Ola plants seeds of support for local farmers, agricultural education, and innovative solutions to grow Hawai‘i’s food self-reliance,” said Cheryl Ka‘uhane Lupenui, president and chief executive officer of The Kohala Center. “We are proud to be among the many hands working together for more regenerative agriculture in Hawaii.”

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Mahi‘ai a Ola is an initiative that evolved from the Mahi‘ai Match-Up program as an opportunity to increase agricultural awareness.

To learn more about Mahi‘ai a Ola, visit www.ksbe.edu/mahiai.

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