My journey as a mahiʻai began my sophomore year of high school when I started volunteering at Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Kānewai after school. At that time, I didn’t know what path ke Akua had planned for me. In school, math was my strongest subject. My teachers and counselors were always pushing me to focus on engineering. I actually believed that this was where I was going in life. Staying home for college was not an option. I was striving to get into schools like UCLA, USC, and other big-name colleges. I was going to Kānewai to learn more about my culture but I had never visualized a future in farming. My teachers and peers had me convinced that success came from attending a good college, getting a high paying job, and making lots of money. For a portion of my life this “success” had been my only goal.
I was finishing up my junior year at Punahou when I decided to look for a job. I wanted a break from my long days in the classroom and knowing I enjoyed the simplistic lifestyle of Kānewai, I knew I wanted to work outdoors. I came across Hoʻokuaʻāina’s website one day and gave Uncle Dean a call. That summer I began working as an intern and haven’t left since.
As I reflect on my time at Hoʻokuaʻāina, I can see just how drastically I’ve grown over the past two years. I’ve worked with the most grounded, steadfast people who have goals of building relationships and living pono. They’ve opened my eyes and helped me to see that success is separate from money. The more days I spent at Hoʻokuaʻāina, the more my love for Hāloa fostered. I looked forward to getting in the mud and found myself always sharing the work I was doing. It was during this time that I was introduced to the ʻohana waʻa. I began spending some of my afternoons down at Mauli Ola taking care of the beautiful double-hulled voyaging canoes.
It was through these experiences that I realized there was no place for me on the mainland. I couldn’t leave the place I had so much kuleana to. My desire to study engineering dissolved and shifted to attending UH Mānoa. Staying home for school meant that I could continue farming, I could continue sailing, I could continue learning ʻōlelo hawaiʻi, and I could continue this journey I was on as a kanaka maoli. I was fortunate to sail on Hikianalia to Kauaʻi where I witnessed the ʻoahi ceremony. The whole community welcomed us and showed how much support for our lāhui exists.
I am currently a freshman at UH Mānoa majoring in both Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language. I’m connecting with so many like-minded people and together we are building ourselves to become the future of Hawaiʻi. I’m doing what I love every day and I could not be happier. Staying home and attending UH Mānoa has been the best decision of my entire life.
I came to Hoʻokuaʻāina wanting to learn more about my culture and I am here now wanting to be a farmer. After tasting the satisfaction of growing my own food, I know I could never go back. I’ve come to appreciate and value the food I put into my body, just as my ancestors did. Food was sacred to them, it was their religion. In my opinion, so many problems could be solved if we just ate the food of our ʻāina. It is so much healthier for both people and the environment. I’m living to see Hawaiʻi thriving in food production and I will do all I can to make this a reality. I’m not talking about growing pineapples to ship off to foreign countries, I’m talking about restoring our kahawai, our loko iʻa, and creating more loʻi kalo. We need to create more organizations like Hoʻokuaʻāina to inspire and change more lives, just as it has done for me.
Written By: Rachel Kapule, Planting Farm Manager