Ulupono Initiative

MAO Organic Farms

Growing high-quality local produce while nurturing a healthier community.

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Background

MAO Organic Farms is a community-based working farm in Waianae, Oahu that not only produces fresh, organic produce but also looks to empower young Hawaiian leaders through agriculture. Established with a desire to address the important needs of our youth and community, a group of residents, traditional practitioners, teachers, and business experts created the Waianae Community Re-Development Corporation (WCRC), a federally recognized 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. In 2001, WCRC created the Mala Ai Opio (MAO) Community Food Security Initiative to which Ulupono’s founders provided $750,000 in grants via the Hawaii Community Foundation for an expansion in 2008. Ulupono has continued the partnership through an additional small-scale grant to accomplish the shared goals of creating a community food system and strengthening local agriculture.

The MAO team’s goal is to re-establish the community through aina-based activities, nurturing and growing our youth and their families within an environment of communal ownership and pride. To engage the community, MAO offers programs and workshops in conjunction with local intermediate and high schools, a college-level youth leadership training internship, and an annual youth and teacher conference that reaches hundreds each year.

MAO is a working farm, where time-management is key and detailed planning and coordination needed. The team works with federal grant agencies, corporations, private foundations, acclaimed chefs, farmers’ markets and the community. As a community-based organization, MAO empowers its own narrative and grows its own capacity to engage and collaborate with community partners to elevate the shared aspirations of a just and sustainable Hawaii.

MAO sells its produce through a variety of channels, including restaurants, retailers that include Whole Foods and Foodland, farmers’ markets and a Community-Supported Agriculture subscription service. In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama visited MAO as part of her healthy foods initiative for children in a move to combat childhood obesity.

Why We Invested

MAO Organic Farms offers opportunities for impact in food through its farming and leadership development activities and shares the goals of creating a community food system and strengthening local agriculture.  

Impact

  • Increases healthy local food production and self-reliance of the community
  • Grows high-quality local produce sought after by consumers from famous chefs and dignitaries to residents at farmers’ markets
  • Nurtures the community through emphasis on youth empowerment, sustainable economic development, health and Hawaiian culture

At a Glance

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Investment Area
Food
Financial Model
Non-Profit
Total Investment

$757,500
2013: $7,500
2008: $750,000*

*Omidyar funds were invested before the creation of Ulupono and are considered legacy projects.

Support for MAO Organic Farms is provided through grants from the Ulupono Donor-Advised Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation.

Website
MAOOrganicFarms.org