HONOLULU (KHON2) — Native Hawaiian reforestation, Polynesian food crops and showcasing nature working harmoniously. That’s just part of what’s already happening on Wahiawa ag land once a haven for illegal dumping and criminal activity.
Scott Wong, CEO of Ohana Hui Ventures, is leasing 433 acres.
Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You
It’s just a small portion of more than 4,200 acres owned by the Agribusiness Development Corporation. Land that was notorious for criminal activity, used as a dumping ground for years.
After more than a year of hard work clearing the land and environmental testing to ensure it’s safe, Wong was given 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’s not working alone. He’s partnering with several other farmers, like Tristin Manuel of Maoli Farms, who’s planting medicinal Hawaiian roots like mamake and olena.
Manuel’s plan is to turn this 30,000 square foot are into a Hawaiian forest using plants that were native to the area.
“We’re going to be growing Ohia Lehua, Iliahi, Sandalwood, Koa trees and we’re going to try to grow Wiliwili,” Manuel said.
“The forest we’re creating will be the foundation of my native Hawaiian herbs, so my crops will go into my forest and be able to harvest them and be able to thrive and grow,” she explained.
Wongs reforestation plan will also incorporate ideas and methods discovered on an acre of the property he is leasing right next to Whitmore village.
Keoni Ford, another of Wong’s farming partners, lead KHON2 on a tour through what they call their Eden.
“What I love about this forest is you don’t have to go very far to harvest,” Ford said bending down to point out a jackfruit about a foot long hanging off a tree just a few inches from the ground.
“This garden was started by Uncle Ray. He was a community member and resident,” Ford explained. “And we want to use the intention of Uncle Ray and the garden that he created here to showcase Polynesian food farming.”
Ford continued through the forest pointing out the various kinds of bamboo and explained how their leaves provide a natural mulch, feeding the soil.
“Without any effort, without mechanical intention, we have more microbial life. It’s more alive here than any farmlands that we have outside of this orchard,” he said as he pushed away some leaves and picked up the rich, dark, reddish-brown soil.
“Certain trees fertilize and work with other trees and so they just start to help each other and it’s an ecosystem.”
Ford said they’ve only started to categorize the plant life growing there. He has identified 36 kinds of avocado, 20 kinds of citrus and countless other crops. All growing together.
“Just think about all the beauty of just the flowering plants that are here. There’s so much more just beyond the food that’s here. It’s just all the subtle accents of what it might look like in the Hawaiian forest, and we get a chance to kind of step away from what we view as traditional ag to see what ag might have looked like a few hundred years ago.”
Ford said they plan to use the forest to share and teach the community and want to plant similar areas on the outskirts of their farm.
In a statement, the ADC said:
“We are pleased by our board of directors’ decision this month to approve three new farming tenants to occupy ADC property in the Wahiawa area. This is the culmination of major strides made in the past three years by our agency to make our remaining vacant land in Central Oahu suitable for farming. These local farmers will soon begin planting crops and contribute to local food production.”
Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8
These three tenants have already begun prepping the land, which includes removing and hauling away trash, soil testing and installing irrigation lines. We want to thank the community for their patience as we worked in cleaning up and filling these unoccupied lands.