Mala ‘Ai ‘Opio - the Youth Food Garden
MAʻO Organic Farms is one of our longtime favorite organizations. Unbeknownst to most, the “M,” “A,” and “O” in MA‘O are actually an acronym that stand in for Mala ‘Ai ‘Opio, or “the youth food garden.”
Located in Lualualei Valley, Waianae, on Oahu’s westside, it was founded in 1999 with a mission to address five critical areas of need on the Waianae coast: out-of-school youth, sustainable economic development, agriculture, health, and Hawaiian culture. Today, MAʻO employs 40-some youth interns in various stages of their college degrees. They earn money and tuition waivers for Leeward Community College, while being immersed in Hawaiian culture and learning the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship through running an organic farm.
Many of the best restaurants on Oahu serve organic produce grown by MAʻOʻs youth leaders. These youth regularly man a large tent at the Kapiolani Community College farmerʻs market and Ward Warehouse farmerʻs markets. And, the farm has been serving hundreds of O‘ahu families through a CSA program which delivers a box of produce each week direct to subscribers of the program. All of these program - the restaurant accounts, farmerʻs market and CSA sales bring in revenue that helps pay for the farmʻs day-to-day expenses, and for college tuition for the youth in the program.
The Herbed Hawaiian Salt included in this monthʻs Makana subscription boxes is part of a new line of value-added products grown and made at MA‘O, which “mitigates our waste stream, builds food preservation skills, increases organic food availability, adds value to our enterprise, and ultimately sends more young folks to college.” Imua!