Growing Food, Growing Youth

By: Eunice Brekke  

Located on the Wai‘anae Coast of O‘ahu, MA'O Organic Farms is one of Hawaii’s largest independent farms with a social mission to not only create a sustainable Hawai’i but to also grow its youth. MA'O is an acronym for mala ‘ai 'opio meaning the youth food garden or growing youth. The youth, many who are Native Hawaiian and first generation college students, are participants in the farm’s Youth Leadership Training program. The program is an indigenous, place-based program where in addition to working at the farm, the youth attend college. Native Hawaiian youth have not traditionally been served well by Hawai‘i’s public school system. Youth experience a number of challenges including negotiating highly negative stereotypes about Hawaiians and public schools largely characterized by low expectations and graduates who either do not attend or are academically unprepared for higher education. Through MA'O, the importance of valuing the indigenous culture, particularly, Hawaiian values and the connection to land and ancestry is emphasized. The youth identify with Hawaiian values and practices of place and caring for the land, specifically aloha ‘aina and malama ‘aina. Youth develop a strong sense of place and commitment to their community, and consequently a shift of how they view their identity and future. From negative stereotypes to a sense of responsibility and purpose – youth see their roles as change agents in creating a sustainable future for their community and for Hawai‘i.

Culture Youth Education
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Eunice Brekke

Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Hawaii Leeward Community College, United States
HI, United States

Associate Professor of Sociology at Leeward Community College, Oahu, Hawaii. Courses include Intro to Sociology, Social Problems and the Sociology of Food.