By: Kazu Akiona-Bannan, Hoa’āina/Farm Operations Specialist at Ho’okua’āina
Aloha! My name is Kazu Akiona-Bannan. Having been born and raised in Kailua, I constantly found myself immersed in the beautiful outdoors of the Ahupua’a I call home. My deep love and passion for the land and ocean of Hawaii guided me to pursue higher education at the University of Hawai’i where I achieved my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts & Hawaiian Studies and Bachelors Degree in Sustainable Community Food Systems. As a Hoa’āina/Farm Operations Specialist at Ho’okua’āina, I now have the pleasure of stewarding the ‘āina of my hometown, serving the community, and perpetuating the values and traditions of my ancestors.
This year, our crew was able to visit our community partners Kōkua Hawai’i Foundation and MA’O Organic Farms. Our organizations have inspired and learned alongside one another for many years. During the visits, we helped finish some of the farming tasks for that day and discussed the growth of our organizations, collective visions, and future collaborations.
My first interaction with Kōkua Hawai’i Foundation was when I was in elementary school. Jack Johnson came to Lanikai Elementary to share his beautiful music and sing about recycling and all its benefits. I can still hear him singing the song to this day, “reduce, reuse, recycle, reduce, reuse, recycle”. Little did I know, 15 years later I would be doing meaningful collaborative non-profit work with Jack Johnson to serve our communities that we love so much. After a heart-warming day at the Kōkua Learning Farm in Haleiwa, I was reflecting on the impact our work can have on keiki, as we plant seeds of aloha ‘āina that continue to grow well into the future.
During the summer of 2022, I participated in the Farm Expansion Experience Internship (FE’E) under MA’O Organic Farms. Through the internship, I visited five different farms and learn how they are working to steward the land using climate-smart agriculture. One of the main highlights of FE’E for me was to meet people in my generation that have the same love for the land and ocean as myself. Their passion motivates them to work harder and care for Hawaii and its communities. It was fantastic to come back to MA’O for a work day as a staff member of Ho’okua’āina and know that our team is not alone in striving to improve our food system and the health of our communities.
The work of Kōkua Hawai’i Foundation and MA’O Organic Farms has supported me along my journey and continues to be a source of inspiration. For me, to wake up every day and be truly grateful and happy for all the blessings in my life, including the opportunity to do soulful work next to amazing people in the ahupua’a I call home, is a dream come true. I believe faith and hard work are what have brought me to where I am today and what will continue to fuel the flame I have for the important work that I will continue to do.