(BIVN) – An East Hawai‘i farmer has won the Mahi‘ai Match-Up business plan competition, a $10,000 cash prize, and five years of rent-free farming on Kamehameha Schools land in Hilo.
Organizers provided video of Friday’s Farm-to-Table Celebration where the winner was announced, and shared this media release:
Kamehameha Schools (KS) and The Kohala Center (TKC) announced Mana ‘Ōlena as the winner of the Mahi‘ai Match-Up business plan competition at a Farm-to-Table Celebration on Friday night. Mana ‘Ōlena 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. The award is part of a larger Mahi‘ai a Ola campaign that aims to revitalize Hawai‘i’s farming industry and grow the next generation of farmers.
“Mahiʻai a Ola encompasses the deeper meaning of mahi‘ai – the idea of cultivating an ‘āina-based lifestyle, a way of thinking, and a relationship with ‘āina,” said Alapaki Nahale-a, Kamehameha Schools’ senior director of community engagement and resources for Hawaiʻi Island. “We’re encouraging connecting with ‘āina to support our state’s agriculture industry and the farmers who cultivate minds, families, and communities.”
Mana ‘Ōlena is a family-owned farm business operated by East Hawai‘i 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 ‘ōlena and conventional ‘ulu. Both crops are significant to Native Hawaiians as food and medicine. Mana ‘Ōlena’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 ‘Ōlena 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 Pāhoehoe just north of Hilo.
The other Mahi‘ai Match-Up finalists were:
Māmaki Native Hawaiian Herbal Tea – The primary business goal of Māmaki Native Hawaiian Herbal Tea is to build and create a market demand for high-quality, certified organic māmaki along with establishing a māmaki tea industry around the practice of growing medicinal plants.
Puna Lei Vanilla – Start-up Puna Lei Vanilla, LLC, developed a business to grow certified organic Tahitian vanilla and deliver high-quality vanilla products. The company founders were motivated to establish Puna Lei Vanilla, LLC, after traveling to Tahiti to learn vanilla cultivation practices from family.
The judges of the competition were:
Jesse Cooke, vice president of investments and analytics, Ulupono Initiative.
Brandon Lee, owner of Kaunamano Farm and Nāpua Restaurant at the Mauna Lani Beach Club and a past Mahi‘ai Match-Up winner.
Diane Ley, director of Hawai‘i County’s Research and Development Department.
Jason Ueki, executive director of HIplan, which runs an annual business plan competition on Hawai‘i Island.
Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, co-owner of Liko Lehua restaurant in Hilo.
TKC also presented $5,000 to GoFarm Hawaiʻi 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 TKC. “We are proud to be among the many hands working together for more regenerative agriculture 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. 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 Ulupono Initiative. The winner will also have the support of KS land asset managers, along with wrap-around business services and financial guidance from TKC.
Mahiʻai a Ao: Scholarship awards for various agriculture-related educational programs, in partnership with GoFarm Hawaiʻi and the Pauahi Foundation
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.
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.
To learn more about Mahi‘ai a Ola, visit www.ksbe.edu/mahiai.