kalo production

Through the management of 23 loʻi patches in the ʻili ʻāina of Kapalai, Kailua, Hoʻokuaʻāina provides culturally significant and nutritionally valuable food to the local community in the form of kalo. Through our non-profit, Hoʻokuaʻāina regularly donates kalo to communities in need through our partnerships with: Hui Mahiʻai ʻĀina, Kulanakauhale Maluhia O Na Kūpuna, and Hui Mālama O Ke Kai. We provide raw kalo to our community twice a week year-round, and produce both poi and kalo paʻa (cooked taro) twice a month year-round. 


Written by Dean Wilhelm

Since getting married over twenty years ago, my wife Michele and I have always had some type of garden. At one point we started growing kalo in our backyard for the luau leaf to make laulau and luau stew. It felt so empowering to grow our own and not have to rely on buying it.

Shortly after, we met a man who was clearing and opening loʻi mauka of our home in Kailua. Once we visited and helped him pull, cook, clean and pound his kalo into poi. When we ate it my first thought was “I feel so deceived having grown up eating Taro Brand poi my whole life.” Not that Taro Brand poi is bad, but never had poi tasted so good. From that moment on, I was on a quest to grow wetland kalo for poi.

Ke Akua then sent us on a voyage to sell our house, find land and create a place to gather people together to interact and do life differently than the norm of today. We were led to Kapalai and feel so privileged to have been given stewardship of this beautiful ʻāina. Now thousands of people from all facets of the community come to Kapalai annually for the purpose of helping to grow kalo. Ironically though, it is the kalo that is helping to grow us.

Kalo was the staple of the Hawaiian people and from the story of Hāloa, we know the reverence and high regard our ancestors had for kalo. In my journey, I soon realized that building a relationship with our ʻāina at Kapalai and caring for it was fundamental to being able to cultivate kalo well. The one-time esoteric statements like “the land will speak to you and guide you” became real and it became apparent that the concept of mālama ʻāina is far more than a beach cleanup.

While beach clean-ups, recycling, and other such things are indeed good, the Hawaiian concept of mālama ʻāina is much deeper. I believe it is a reciprocal relationship based on Aloha Kekahi I Kekahi or love from one to another. It is an interdependent relationship based on interaction, care, giving and receiving. Caring for our planet as a whole can only take place when one is in a true relationship with a specific place on the planet. Kapalai is our place and kalo has given us the opportunity to grow in this regard. Now we simply want to share this opportunity to grow with others.

Growing kalo for me is physical and helps to keep my body going. Farming this particular crop is scientific and requires much of my mental capacity. And perhaps most importantly for me, growing kalo is spiritual. I connect to creation and my Creator. I nurture the kalo and help it to grow and it in turn nurtures and gives sustenance to my whole family.

kapalai crew: how to grow kalo

kapalai kitchen: how to clean & kuʻi kalo with dean wilhelm

story from a member of our poi community

“Poi from Hoʻokuaʻāina was a huge part of our youngest keiki’s life. While hāpai with her, I ate a lot of poi, kalo paʻa, and cooked luʻau stew with luʻau from Hoʻokuaʻāina. I remember feeling so warm and nourished at that time. After she was born and able to eat solids, she had poi on the regular from you folks. She is still my keiki that loves kalo the most. As an ʻohana, we received some huli back in 2019. We started with planting in 5-gallon buckets, and when we moved to our own home, we were able to plant the keiki from the same huli into the ground. Now, years later, we still have the keiki from those original makua feeding our ʻohana regularly. My keiki have learned how to care for them, harvest, and replant. We are so thankful to have the food that was shared with us from Hoʻokuaʻāina for so many years. We are grateful for the manaʻo shared on how to grow and take care of our kalo, and for the love extended to our ʻohana from your caring hands and hearts.”