HONOLULU (KHON2) – Native Hawaiian reforestation, Polynesian food crops and a harmonious interaction of nature. That’s just part of what’s already happening on Wahiawa Inc. land, once a haven for illegal landfills and criminal activity.
Scott Wong, CEO of Ohana Hui Ventures, leases 433 acres.
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It is only a small portion of more than 4,200 acres owned by Agribusiness Development Corporation. Land notorious for criminal activity and used as a garbage dump for years.
After more than a year of hard work clearing the land and environmental testing to make sure it’s safe, Wong has received approval to plant and is ready to put the land to good use.
“Our plan here on this property is to grow Polynesian vegetables and Asian vegetables, industrial hemp and a reforestation project,” Wong said.
He doesn’t work alone. He works with several other farmers, including Tristin Manuel of Maoli Farms, who grows medicinal Hawaiian roots like Mamake and Olena.
Manuel’s plan is to transform this 30,000 square foot area into a Hawaiian forest using plants native to the area.
“We will grow ohia lehua, iliahi, sandalwood and koa trees and we will try to grow wiliwili,” Manuel said.
“The forest that we create will be the foundation of my native Hawaiian herbs, so my plants will go into my forest and they will be able to harvest and thrive and grow,” she explained.
Wong’s reforestation plan will also incorporate ideas and methods discovered on an acre of land he leases right next to the village of Whitmore.
Keoni Ford, another of Wong’s farming partners, takes KHON2 on a tour of what they call their Eden.
“What I love about this forest is that you don’t have to go very far to harvest it,” said Ford, bending down to point to a jackfruit that was about a foot long and only a few inches off the ground of one tree hung.
“This garden was planted by Uncle Ray. He was a parishioner and resident,” Ford explained. “And we want to use Uncle Ray’s intent and the garden he planted here to showcase the Polynesian food economy.”
Ford continued through the forest showing the different species of bamboo and explaining how their leaves provide a natural mulch that nourishes the soil.
“Without effort, without mechanical intent, we have more microbial life. It’s livelier here than any farmland we have outside of this orchard,” he said, pushing away some leaves and picking up the rich, dark, reddish-brown soil.
“Certain trees fertilize and collaborate with other trees, and so they just start helping each other, and it’s an ecosystem.”
Ford said they were just beginning to categorize the plant life that grows there. He has identified 36 avocado varieties, 20 citrus varieties and countless other crops. Everyone grows together.
“Just think of all the beauty of the flowering plants that are here. There is so much more than just the food that is here. It’s just all the subtle touches of what the Hawaiian forest might be like, and we have the opportunity to step away from what we think of as traditional farming to see what farming might have been like a few hundred years ago .”
Ford said they plan to use the forest to share and educate the community and plan to plant similar areas on the outskirts of their farm.
In a statement, the ADC said, “We are pleased with our Board’s decision this month to approve three new agricultural tenants to occupy ADC properties in the Wahiawa region. This is the culmination of the great strides our agency has made over the past three years to make our remaining vacant land in central Oahu suitable for agriculture. These local farmers will soon start growing crops and contributing to local food production.”
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These three tenants have already begun preparing the land, which includes removing and hauling away rubbish, soil surveys and installing irrigation lines. We want to thank the community for their patience while we worked to clean up and replenish this unoccupied land.