Nana i ke kumu (Look to the source)
In this new weekly series, hear from local farmers, ranchers, and other food producers about their crucial efforts to sustain our communities during the coronavirus pandemic. They are the source that sustains us, as we work to support one another through this crisis, look ahead toward recovery, and help make Hawaii more resilient in the future.
A Conversation with
Vincent Mina, Co-Owner of Kahanu Aina Greens LLC
By Dani Douglass
Sometimes our most compelling realizations emerge from the most challenging situations. What is becoming soberingly evident through the COVID-19 crisis is Hawaii’s over-reliance on imported food and the essential role of the islands’ unsung agricultural heroes working to provide fresh produce to nourish local communities.
Maui farming ohana spreads aloha with healthy food and community spirit
Vincent Mina, co-owner of Kahanu Aina Greens LLC, which he and his wife, Irene, manage from a 2,500-square-foot plot on their property in Wailuku, Maui, sees this time as one that can strengthen people’s connection to the land. Vincent, who is also the president of Hawaii Farmers Union United and sits on the State Board of Agriculture and the National Farmers Union board, grows organic microgreens — like sunflower, green pea, radish and wheatgrass.
“The true solution is not the farmer; the true solution is the land and our relationship to it,” he said. “The farmer is just facilitating that relationship and manifesting the food.”
Flexibility has been necessary during the current situation. As a farmer, Vincent has pivoted his focus from supplying restaurant and hotel accounts into community-supported agriculture (CSA) accounts. As the president of a farming organization, he’s also been working to connect the 13 statewide chapters so that they can likewise adapt to the suddenly disrupted supply networks and continue aggregating and distributing food throughout Hawaii.
He added that the resiliency of the agricultural industry is heartening and drives home a crucial message. “Supporting local is not a saying,” he explained. “It is what will sustain our economy and allow people to access healthy food so they can make healthy decisions.”
The Mina family shares the entrepreneurial spirit. Vincent started the business at age 40 when Irene was craving sunflower seeds while pregnant with their daughter, Kahanulani. He decided it was time to shift paths from being a decorative painter and pursue his true passion. Kahanulani, now 26, is following her own entrepreneurial dreams with her bikini business, Hanu Hawaii. She has pivoted her focus and is now making face masks to keep customers safe.
Also a giver and entrepreneur, Irene’s latest endeavor is a gift to her Wailuku community. The KEKAI Community Cart honors the memory of the couple’s late son, Noah “Kekai” Mina, who passed away last May at age 35. The cart is stocked with paper goods, fresh fruits and produce.
There is no money exchanged and neighbors are encouraged to take what they need and to share anything extra they may have to give. “It was truly inspired by him,” Irene said. “Our neighbor built it with my vision and we are waiting for the sign to be finished. So many neighbors have come by since I opened it.”
As behavioral priorities shift in Hawaii’s communities, the spotlight is focusing on the agricultural industry, which is central to Hawaii’s immediate and long-term resiliency in the face of this and future crises. For the Mina ohana, inspiration comes through a deep connection to the aina and is what keeps their spirits shining bright despite challenging times.
“It’s in the nature of our relationship with food and our relationship with the land,” Vincent said. “It’s been such a giver for us.”
Mahalo to the agriculture producers of Hawaii, who understand that a strong ag economy is a resilient one.
Follow this weekly series highlighting the vital work of the dedicated farmers, ranchers and other growers throughout the islands and their contributions to our state’s self-sufficiency and resiliency.