Kamehameha Schools, Kohala Center Launch Island Farming Initiative

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Farmland on KS land at Pāhoehoe in South Hilo. PC: Kamehameha Schools

The vast majority of food consumed in Hawai‘i is grown elsewhere—a paradigm Kamehameha Schools (KS) and The Kohala Center (TKC) are aiming to alter.

KS and TKC have long sought farmers with whom to partner in an effort to increase local food production, as nearly 90% of the state’s food is imported. On Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, KS and TKC launched Mahi‘ai a Ola, a campaign to support local farmers, agricultural education and solutions to improve food security, according to a KS press release.

Mahiʻai a Ola is an ʻāina-based lifestyle concept that is not about living to eat but rather eating to live, the release continued. In the larger food system, farmers don’t just cultivate food, they cultivate minds, families and communities.


“When you break down the concept of mahiʻai—it’s about the energy and the vigor of working with the land,” said KS Asset Management Director on Hawai’i Island Marissa Harman. “It’s also part of the word ʻāina. Together, it’s about sustaining oneself, one’s community—feeding the mind, body and spirit.”

“The Mahi‘ai a Ola initiative is truly a unique opportunity for our Hawai’i Island farmers,” added 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 ‘āina as a meaningful way of life in Hawai‘i.”

Mahiʻai a Ola is an initiative that evolved from the Mahiʻai 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, the release stated.


Mahiʻai a Ola is made up of three programs:

  • Mahiʻai Match-Up: An agricultural business plan competition in which the winner is awarded a five-year land agreement with KS and a $10,000 cash prize donated by the 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, 2019.
  • Mahiʻai a Ao: Scholarship awards for various agriculture-related educational programs, in partnership with GoFarm Hawaiʻi.
  • MahiX: An open innovation challenge seeking cooperative solutions to Hawaiʻi’s most pressing agricultural issues.

KS stewards more than 160,000 acres of agricultural land on Hawai’i Island. Farmers on KS land raise a variety of crops such as papaya, bananas, vegetables, ʻulu, Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, cacao and livestock such as pigs and cattle, the release continued.

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


Alongside these efforts, TKC has worked hard to support the Hawaiʻi Island food system with farmer training programs, youth education initiatives and rural and cooperative business development services to inspire future generations of food producers and help them succeed.

Funds raised on behalf of Mahiʻai a Ola will provide scholarships and funding for new and innovative ideas and initiatives that support agriculture and food security, the release said.

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

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