A couple of months ago, a group of thirty volunteers from our Foodland and Sack N Save ohana returned to Maʻo Farms in Waianae’s Lualualei Valley for our much anticipated quarterly GIVE day (Get Involved, Volunteer Environmentally). We all looked forward to spending the morning working in the fields planting, weeding and harvesting, but more importantly reconnecting with the knowledgeable and passionate student interns and staff at Maʻo. Since this was our fourth visit over the past year, it felt like a reunion for us.
We also eagerly anticipated seeing all the plants we tended to in prior visits. We wondered if they survived and if they were thriving. As we entered the drive that leads into Maʻo, the first thing we saw was a row of about 20 banana trees that we planted at our first GIVE day last year. Not only did the trees survive, they were healthy, mature and bearing fruit. Everyone was excited to see the results of our labor. We realized that our time and energy made a difference and were grateful for that.
As we gathered together to begin our work, we listened as the student interns described the work opportunities for the morning. One group was needed to dig holes and plant lime and avocado trees. Another group would be transplanting some Tuscan kale plants and another group would help weed one of the gardens. On the way to the fields we would be working in, we passed by fields planted with the diverse array of produce grown on the farm and sold in some of our stores: beets, eggplant, wild arugula, radishes, kale and cilantro to name a few.
Our group had the task of planting dozens of lime and avocado trees in new acreage most recently acquired by Maʻo. We were fortunate because Gary Maunakea-Forth, the farm’s managing director, had rented a power auger which would make our task simpler and faster. There was still a lot of hard work because of the abundance of rocks in the soil and the digging we had to do, but the auger made a huge difference. Two of the talented interns, Ikaika and Alfred, were masters of the auger and shared their skills and knowledge with us. After much digging and using picks and oʻo to remove all the rocks, we completed our task and saw four neat rows of trees with open fields of dirt in between. It was rewarding to see what we had accomplished working together. But our work was not done. We were so efficient and worked so quickly that we were given the opportunity to plant bamboo trees which would serve as a wind break for the strong winds coming from the back of the valley. The soil where the bamboo was to be planted was even rockier and filled with debris so it seemed the auger wouldn’t help us much there. But we were undaunted and working together for another hour or so, we successfully planted a row of bamboo trees. We didn’t realize that in that short time, we had planted 71 trees in total. It was a really productive morning and the Maʻo staff was so appreciative of all the extra hands that helped them get the trees planted.
After our work was done we all gathered in the visitor center and together with the Maʻo interns enjoyed a lunch prepared by Foodland’s corporate chef, Keoni Chang. Everyone had worked up quite an appetite working in the fields so the delicious lunch which included a salad of freshly harvested Maʻo greens was a real treat.
Thanks to everyone at Maʻo for the privilege of working alongside them and bringing great quality, locally grown organic produce to our customers. I’m excited to announce that Maʻo Farms produce is now available at Foodland Beretania  in addition to Foodland Kailua , Foodland Market City , Sack N Save Nanakuli  and Foodland Farms Aina Haina .