By: Michele & Dean Wilhelm, Co-Executive Directors
We hope the beginning of 2023 finds you and your loved ones well! We are so excited to share how the transition into this new year has been filled with great news and new beginnings for Hoʻokuaʻāina.
Firstly, the spirit of celebration has been on the highest level as we just recently received an award from the State Legacy Land Fund for $2.6 million towards the purchase of an additional 116 acres of prime agricultural land almost next door to our current site at Kapalai. This coupled with an award last summer from the City and County Clean Water and Natural Land Fund of $6.3 million, completes the amount needed for Hoʻokuaʻāina to complete the purchase. We are referring to this property as Palawai.
We are just beginning the strategic planning process we are terming Hoʻokuaʻāina 2.0, as we move beyond the stewardship and programming currently at our location in the ili of Kapalai and begin to ready ourselves to significantly expand the work we do on the ʻāina of Palawai. Some exciting new partnerships have formed to help us with the process. Islander Institute will be helping to facilitate the great team that is forming with our Board of Directors, consultants, community stakeholders, students at Stanford University and University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. The possibilities of diversifying our current model of production and community outreach are boundless which presents good problems we hope to solve by year end with a solid plan moving forward.
For eight years now, Hoʻokuaʻāina along with other value-aligned organizations as well as community members in the Maunawili/Kailua area have sought to prevent the development of these incredibly fertile agricultural lands and return them to the stewardship of those committed to their restoration. Trust for Public Land and Hawaiian Island Land Trust have been the support to lead us through the process. We couldnʻt have done it without them! They have been the ones who spearheaded the effort as well as the many other community stakeholders who have given support, shared testimony, and held great faith in Hoʻokuaʻāina to pull off this next phase of the journey. With all the many stories of lands being lost here in Hawaii, this is a huge aloha ʻāina victory! We hope you celebrate with us. Mahalo Ke Akua!
With all that being shared, it would come as no surprise that we have some planning to do!
An expansion means building our internal team as well. We are pleased to announce the appointment of 4 new board members over the last 2 months who bring a wealth of experience as well as the essence and belief in the values we hold true to as an organization. They along with our current members are all excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for us as an organization as well as the impact this will have on the surrounding communities. See our website for the list of the current board.
The face of our staff is almost all brand new as well. Dean, Michele, and Cas ʻKauiʻ continued to hold it down while welcoming all the new faces in 2022. I know many of you will miss the crew that were the face of Hoʻokuaʻāina for so long. Not to worry, they are still around but have embarked on exciting new missions. We have been blessed to welcome back Benjamin Ah Sing who is our Farm Operations Specialist along with Kazu Akiona-Bannon. The two of them are in charge of all the kalo production and sales along with mentoring and teaching the thousands of kids who visit throughout the year. Rebecca Croft joined the team last summer as our Outreach Coordinator but also comes with great data collection and evaluation skills. Kaulana Kealoha-Hanawahine is one of our alakaʻi peer mentors who has worked his way through every level of programming at Hoʻokuaʻāina starting as a volunteer, then intern, and finally ASA apprentice now pursuing a Bachelors in Sustainable Food Systems from UH West Oahu. Ari Lunnow-Luke joined our team as well in the fall and is a tremendous asset to the whole team as she contemplates next steps to pursue her graduate degree. We have great confidence in this team and are ready to step into the next phase of growth and impact.
The two of us truly have so much to be thankful for. We look to the future with great anticipation with the perspective that Hoʻokuaʻāina is only now beginning to hit its stride. We firmly believe a true kuaʻāina is a person committed to the well-being of present and future generations. A big part of this year’s strategic plan and goal setting will be to organize a financial campaign to garner the needed start-up capital to successfully begin the restoration of abundance back to the Palawai lands. We hope you will begin to dream with us about this ʻāina, its future prospects, and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for generations to come. We ask that you pule/contemplate how you can partner with us and support this effort moving forward. If you feel inclined, please reach out to discover ways you can get involved.
Blessings and aloha!
Me ka ha’aha’a,
Michele and Dean