For the past 30 years, Maui resident Louis Coulombe has built a reputation for Lahaina’s beachfront restaurant, Pacific’o on the Beach. While there are no words for the amount of loss and tragedy that continues to unfold in Lahaina, few people on island are aware of Coulombe’s crop-diversified, sustainable O’o Farm. Offering meals prepared on-site by the farm chef along with daily farm tours at 3,500 feet above sea level, O’o Farm’s 8.5 acres are situated on pristine Kula land, sustainably maintained and naturally cultivated with a no-till approach. In 2000, surfing buddies turned successful restaurateurs, Coulombe and Stephan Bel-Robert purchased the upcountry land that had only a citrus orchard and a few coffee trees. Today, O’o Farm includes Hawaiian coffee and fruit trees, rows of lettuce and garden vegetables, and green houses with flavorful tomatoes, herbs, flowers, a gift shop, and more.
“To grow locally on an island is one of the most sustainable things you can do,” said Coulombe. “If you operate a restaurant and can recycle food waste in the farm compost—even better. If you can follow crop diversification and organic methods—even better. If you can share what you do with the community and visitors, I think it contributes to the sustainable front.”
During the covid pandemic, and recently the Maui wildfires, community members picked up boxes of produce from the farm. O’o Farm supplies Maui Food Bank, and numerous restaurants and chefs around the island. O’o Farm Chef and Farm Manager Daniel Eskelsen said,“It’s my joy to be able to pass along the fruits of our labor. We like to share our farming methods with our guests and explain how we grow, harvest, and roast coffee at the highest elevation in the state. Our guests also learn about how our free-range farm chickens help us remove invasive grass and fertilize along drip lines in the trees.”
Mainland tour and lunch participants Grant and Pat Lucas from Texas shared their O’o Farm experience. “The amount of knowledge and our freshest seed-to-cup and farm-to-table meal was unmatched. With the bi-coastal views and quiet charm of farm life, this was a priceless experience. We’ll be back!”
Here at O’o Farm and Pacific’o, students may apply for internships receiving full college credits. Volunteers who want to learn about sustainable farming should also contact us.
Daniel Eskelsen, O’o Farm Chef and Farm Manager
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Common Ground Collective (CGC) strives to transform Maui into a bountiful and productive island that benefits both the environment and the people who live here, in extraordinary ways. Their administrative staff is a passionate group of individuals with experience in sustainable sciences, business management, research, agriculture, politics, law and the hospitality industry. They employ mobile farmers with skills such as regenerative farming practices, to transform unproductive land into blossoming farms throughout the community. CGC promotes food security, economic opportunities, educational opportunities including student internships, and sustainability through hands-on assistance and incentives. Recently, they have also turned their attention to relief efforts to those affected by the Maui fires.
“The wildfires have taken a great toll on our community and the community food security needs immediately surged,” said CGC Founding Executive Director, Jennifer Karaca. “On August 9th, after the Salvation Army’s (the state-contracted food provider during times of emergency) kitchen had burned down, CGC was contacted by Maui United Way to step in. We immediately acquired the kitchen at University of Hawaii Maui College (UHMC), coordinated the UHMC staff, various government agencies, the Chef Hui, and the World Central Kitchen (WCK) in order to begin providing meals for those in shelters, at various community hubs, and in the residence facilities not offering food. We have been working to incorporate products from local producers as much as possible to help offset the economic fallout of this disaster.”
While coordinating 8,000-10,000 meals a day for those in need, the CGC maintains its existing programs to promote food security island-wide. Karaca explained, “We will continue to procure local produce, proteins, and other added-value products needed for both UHMC and WCK, in addition to bulk food items for the community distribution hubs who are wanting to cook for themselves. Our organization strives to teach community members, volunteers, and students how to grow food, and provides essential knowledge and hands-on training for the efficient management of properties, while creating and nurturing connections with our many partners within the community. Bottom line, it’s about working together and helping each other.”
As we promote food security, education and economic opportunities on Maui, we also hope to set up a framework to bring this model of service to other areas in Hawaii and abroad.
Jennifer Karaca, CGC Founding Executive Director
If you are a community member or a fire victim with a disability, Kelea Foundation is available to provide support. “We are here for you,” said Kelea founder Jenn Gladwin. “Kelea is a Maui-based non-profit, working with the County of Maui and numerous organizations dedicated to distributing durable medical equipment to those who need assistance. We work towards equity and advocate especially for marginalized communities to get access to the same things as the well-resourced community. Kelea creates programs and events that promote self-determination and strength in individuals, including sports programs for all ages.”
A lifeguard with medical training, Gladwin worked alongside emergency teams, starting Day One of the recent Maui fires to help identify people with disabilities and those with complex medical cases. “I immediately saw the need to advocate for those with special needs and to connect them to vital services and extended medical care,” she explained. “My team and I realized quickly that we would need to replace large quantities of durable medical equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs, and more. We jumped into action and started sourcing these items from our community and then beyond. We have put together a statewide ‘disability hui’ of organizations and agencies who are working together to ensure Maui’s most vulnerable do not fall through the cracks.”
Kelea has been fortunate to acquire, through donations, many pieces of durable equipment, and have already served more than 150 people affected by the Maui fires. “Now, we are raising funds to open an accessible community resilience hub in central Maui,” Gladwin shared. “This location will serve as a storage and distribution center for medical equipment and related items. Additionally, it will provide a working space for social workers and specialists with whom we are in partnership to meet with clients in a safe, comfortable and accessible space. Our hub will be a community center for us to gather, plan, collaborate and heal as we move forward into extended assistance for our community. For me, the biggest priority is for the community to know that our services exist. Call if needed.” For more information or assistance, email TheKeleaFoundation@gmail.com, or call 808-344-2345.
Kelea Foundation was a recent recipient of a check from 100 Women Who Care. We hope to use the money for added community programs in our new location.
Jenn Gladwin, Founder, Kelea Foundation
Sustainability on Maui is vital for the island’s future, and sustainability is exactly the goal of the Maui Food Hub (MFH). As a welcome online platform and non-profit organization, MFH connects local Maui farmers and their produce with the community, making it possible for farmers to work together to meet the growing demand for local food. In addition, as part of a statewide Food Hub Hui, MFH contributes to helping other islands in need and most recently Maui itself due to the wildfires.
Formed during the beginning of the Covid lockdown to link arms with Maui’s small farms, and now with the slowdown in tourism and the loss of so many restaurants in Lahaina, the farmers have taken another hit. MFH says residents can help simply by buying food from them instead of big box stores. “We have to maintain support for our farmers and ranchers long term,” said Autumn Ness, MFH President. “Please help us maintain this support and buy local whenever you can─ and spread the word!”
Ness continued, “Buying local food is important for so many reasons. It makes Maui more resilient in times of crisis and supply chain interruptions, makes us less reliant on tourism dollars, and keeps money spent on food circulating locally. Additionally, locally grown food tastes better and lasts longer than food that comes across the ocean.”
MFH is also providing local fresh affordable produce to Maui low-income residents, food banks, and community kitchens. They just received a grant to expand distribution services into more areas, especially those considered “food deserts” where food access is limited. They continue to seek partnerships with organizations who serve at-risk or low-income individuals and families that want to ensure better access to healthy food for their clients.
MFH customer Maile Edwards said, “The organic produce is both high-quality and economical. With low prices and easy online shopping, it is wonderful to be able to order if you are injured or sick and cannot make it to the grocery store.”
Ness added, “We are also presently working with the DA BUX program, where retailers discount their locally grown produce by 50% for customers paying with SNAP food dollars which increases the demand. Plus, with the 262 acres in the Kula Ag Park recently reserved for organic farmers, we hope to increase our impact and supply nutritious food to even more people.”
Our mission is to ensure that fresh food is affordable and available to everyone. To shop MFH, go online to mauihub.org.
Autumn Ness, MFH President
The County of Maui Volunteer Center joins with over 100 nonprofits to mobilize volunteers for those affected by the Maui wildfires. Many people are searching for ways to assist the community right now. Below is a short list of some of the current opportunities within the Center’s partner agencies. Volunteer opportunities will continue to arise over the coming months as help, recovery and healing are all needed.
Maui Strong Fund: Administered by the Hawaii Community Foundation, the fund provides financial resources to support the immediate and long-term recovery needs for residents affected by the wildfires. See www.mauinuistrong.info for information on how to donate or volunteer to assist. For additional information, call 808-270-7285.
Maui United Way: MUW plans to continue providing monetary grants to each resident with a home or business in the burn zones. Those who want to donate should go to mauiunitedway.org or call 808-244-8787 to volunteer.
Maui Food Bank: The sign-up form is on the website: mauifoodbank.org. Scroll down and click ‘Emergency Volunteer Sign-Up’. Non-perishable food donations can be dropped off daily from 6:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. to the Maui Food Bank Store at 90 Amala Place, Kahului.
Hawaii Red Cross: Register online as a Hawaii Red Cross Volunteer or streamline the application by visiting their office at 95 Mahalani Street, Conference Room # 3, Building 5, Wailuku.
Na Hoaloha: Volunteers provide escorted transportation for seniors who need to go to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and more. To volunteer, call 808-249-2545.
Our Kupuna: Join them in making a difference in the Our Kupuna Volunteer Program. For more information, go to http://www.ourkupuna.com/volunteer .
Maui Humane Society: To volunteer or donate, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808-877-3680.
Maui Rescue Mission: Offering a mobile resource center for those struggling with homelessness. Recently, donors and volunteers delivered 100 fire relief bags to those displaced by the fire. Contact them at email@example.com or call 808-727-9008
MEDB’s ‘ohana continues to hold all those affected by the Maui fires in our thoughts and prayers as we work collectively to serve our community’s recovery and renewal.
Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President & CEO
MEDB stands with our community in shock and profound grief at the enormity of the catastrophe on Maui’s West Side and Upcountry. Like so many on our island, we have been personally touched with loss and trauma that too many others have shared.
The eyes of the world are focused on Maui – our predicament remains on the front pages of the international media, whether print or digital. Like many others here, we at MEDB have received messages from the global community of support, empathy and compassion. We would like to assure our community that we will strive in the weeks and months ahead to serve at the forefront of our community’s recovery and renewal. To all who have suffered loss, we express our deepest and heartfelt sympathy.
Providing everything the community has come to expect from it, the popular Maui County Farm Bureau Maui AgFest & 4-H Livestock Fair was held in June 2023. The event, to raise awareness about Maui agriculture, brought together ag industry and supporters to share what each group does for the collective good of ag in the County. Agriculture’s vital role in the economy and lifestyle of Maui was showcased by the Legacy Breakfast honoring longtime farmers, the fresh produce and vendors, food trucks, live local entertainment, a keiki zone, cooking classes, an educational tent, farmers market, the Grand Taste, and last but certainly not least, the Maui 4-H Livestock Show and Auction.
“The 4-H’ers were keen to talk about their program while showcasing their animals,” said Nancy Ooki, Assistant Extension Agent 4-H Youth Development, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii. “They’re proud to exhibit their healthy and groomed livestock animals including cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, and more. Managing and raising livestock is a must-have opportunity for our keiki.”
Maui 4-H Livestock offers two types of projects: Market and Breeding. Market projects in beef cattle, sheep, and swine entails the 4-H member raising, feeding and finishing an animal to proper market weight for harvest. Breeding projects allow the 4-H member to raise cattle and goats as breeding stock. At the final show, an expert judge evaluates the livestock for their potential as either breeding or market animals, provides a critique for each animal in the class, and compares the form of the animal with the purpose it is intended to serve.
Landon Lung, Carden Academy 7th grader, shared, “My brother and I enjoy raising animals and being members of 4-H. We attend 4-H meetings and our whole family is involved. We learn about agriculture, how to take care of the animals, and how animals can help us care for our land and environment. Our 4-H Pledge is ‘My HEAD to clearer thinking; My HEART to greater loyalty; My HANDS to larger service; and My HEALTH to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.’”
Healthy living, science, and citizenship are incorporated into projects other than livestock throughout the year. 4-H special-interest programs focus on specific topic areas that teach experientially.
Assistant Extension Agent 4-H Youth Development, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii
In a featured talk, “Sharing Our Visions, Opportunities and Challenges in the Energy Industry”, at the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC), Shelee Kimura, President and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, and Alicia Moy, President and CEO of Hawaii Gas, discussed Hawaii’s energy future from the perspective of their companies. Moderated by Jacqui Hoover, Chair, Conference Program Committee; Executive Director and COO, Hawaii Island Economic Development Board; and President, Hawaii Leeward Planning, the conversation was both informative and encouraging.
Hoover asked, “What message do you both want to send to the energy sector and to our communities? What goals can be filled and how do your two companies complement each other?”
Kimura said, “Hawaiian Electric’s economy-wide decarbonization plan includes every sector. We hope to adopt the 2030 aspirational goal to reduce our carbon emission by 50% in the state’s economy and then by 70% in the electricity sector. Hawaii Gas just filed their long-term plan which is intended to help Hawaii reach our 100% renewable energy goals by 2045. Our individual paths are very unique, but when we frame them together, which we must now, we can get things done. We are both working to get clean energy projects permitted, interconnected, and operational in a reasonable amount of time. Hawaii Gas is an important part of that. They are exploring carbon-free fuel for the long-term. Our challenge is to act and execute while we continue to innovate. We need to make these things happen at the same time. It is not easy.”
Moy added, “Shelee and I have bonded over Hawaii’s energy solutions, especially for the future of our next generation. I feel that there has been a shift. Once there was that competition, but now we know our future depends on working together. Hawaii Gas is focused on how Hawaii will meet its climate goals and the role we will play. If the state needs a recovery from any crisis, Hawaii Gas will be part of the solution. By increasing the amount of hydrogen blending in the pipeline plus other new technologies and innovations, there are new opportunities opening for all of us.”
It is achievable to reduce carbon emissions by more than two-thirds over this decade if everyone pitches in. Both of our companies want to create a cost-effective, sustainable, and resilient energy system for future generations.
Shelee Kimura, President & CEO, Hawaiian Electric, Alicia Moy, President & CEO, Hawaii Gas
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the 2023 Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC), recently held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, was presented by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) with the support of the County of Maui Office of Economic Development. Experts and stakeholders from Hawaii, Canada, the continental U.S., Asia-Pacific and elsewhere exchanged ideas on how to better serve our communities in today’s rapidly-changing, energy-conscious environment. Including a diverse range of speakers and topics, attendees gained new insights about what it will take for Hawaii to reach its mandate of producing 100% clean energy by 2045.
“Each panel and invited talk was designed to give attendees the tools, knowledge, and connections they need to make meaningful changes,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “We have to commit, incentivize innovation, and work together to reach our sustainability goals for a brighter future for Hawaii.”
According to Hawaiian Electric, 32% of electricity generated on Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Maui County was from renewable resources last year. Hawaii Island generated 48%, Maui County generated 36%, and Oahu generated 28%. Kauai County led the state, achieving more than 60% last year through its own cooperative that also has a planned pumped storage hydroelectric project in West Kauai. Brad Rockwell, COO, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, explained, “One hundred percent of Kauai’s daytime demand for electricity is met by renewables. Long-term storage will be the water reservoir, which runs a 4MW hydroelectric generator and a 20MW. This long-term storage can bring Kauai to 100% renewable.”
Additionally, hydrogen proposals and on-going projects on how to make, store, and use it in Hawaii were discussed. Mitch Ewan, Hydrogen Systems Program Manager at HNEI, shared, “On the Big Island, hydrogen-fueled vehicles are already operating. HNEI buses and trucks have an infrastructure for public transportation, they fuel rapidly and provide long-endurance energy storage. Hydrogen offers energy security for Hawaii.”
Keynote speaker Daphne Frias, a youth climate justice activist from New York, emphasized, “We need to include more youth and those with disabilities in the climate conversation. At the end of the day, we all live on this one planet.”
The community can be involved in the Hawaii Legislature, not only by testifying, but also by engaging specific legislators who stalled bills on issues of concern. We need to solve problems together.
Senator Lynn DeCoite, Chair; Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism; State of Hawaii