Gary Maunakea-Forth is making a huge difference in the lives of Waianae youth. Placing 5th in the Yale University and 1st in the Chaminade University Business Plan Competition, the Ma’o Organic Farm is an innovative community program to increase opportunities with agriculture.
Gary shares his unique view on working with companies and government to bring their mission to life. Many of the youth that go through the Ma’o program end up giving back to their community in a hands on approach. Listen to how Gary is improving Hawaii one person at a time.
Gary Maunakea-Forth was born and raised in the farming community of Levin in Aotearoa-New Zealand, coming to Hawai`i 1989 to be a player-coach for the Hawai`i Harlequins Rugby team.
Kukui Maunakea-Forth was born on Nanakuli Hawaiian Homestead and raised at the knee of her Kupuna wahine (grandmother) Katherine K. Maunakea, a noted Hawaiian language teacher, musician, educator, and community cultural resource.
Both are graduates of the University of Hawai’i, Gary with a BA in environmental studies and political science and a MA in political Science and Kukui with a BA in Hawaiian Studies.
In 2001, Gary and Kukui co-founded the MA`O Community Food Security Initiative which operates a 5-acre USDA-certified organic farm, a youth training program, and the Aloha `Aina Café in Wai`anae. Gary currently works for Leeward Community College as an Education Specialist and Organic Farmer, developing the Wai’anae Organic Agriculture Center to be located at the current site of MA’O Organic Farms. Kukui currently serves as Executive Director of the non-profit umbrella of the MA’O Initiative, the Wai’anae Community Re-Development Corporation (WCRC).
As long-time community advocates, the MA’O Initiative was a natural step for Kukui and Gary since they had been involved in community development work both in the non-profit and public sector. Gary had previously worked as Business Development Specialist for the Wai’anae Business Center organizing an annual Wai’anae Festival called Ua Mau Na Po’e ‘O Wai’anae that showcased local artists, businesses, and products. Gary has also worked as a Job Development Specialist for O’ahu Work Links One-Stop Employment Center in Wai’anae where he became familiar with many of the issues facing the unemployed. Prior to his current position with MA’O, Gary worked for the Hawai`i Community Loan Fund, as a Business Development Specialist/Loan Officer, working with small business start-ups and expansions, as well as non-profit community based organizations, providing technical assistance and loans.
Following the footsteps of her grandmother, Kukui has worked as a community activist for most of her life- volunteering in many community non-profits and grassroots organizations. Kukui has been active in many organizations that primarily serve youth because education is very important in helping Wai’anae keiki to succeed. Some of these organizations include the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center-Nanakuli, the Nanakuli Ahupua’a Council, Ka Lahui Hawai’i, Westside Hawaiian Lifeguard ‘Ohana, Wai’anae Coast Coalition, and two-family organizations called Aha Haku Mele ‘O Maunakea and the Katherine K. Maunakea Foundation. Besides working for these community-based organizations, Kukui has also worked in the public school system for eight (8) years as a Hawaiian Studies Teacher at Lehua Elementary, Honowai Elementary, and Ma’ili Elementary.
Gary and Kukui has found a great sense of pride in their work by serving Wai’anae youth (and their families), sharing in their successes and achievements. Grateful for the opportunities that were given them, they hope to grow the MA’O Community Food Security Initiative to be a source of inspiration for future youth leaders.
Gary and Kukui live in Wai`anae with their four children, Hiwa, Malu, Kauhi, and Kealohi; recently becoming
grandparents to Kamana’olanakauakauokealaula.
Ma’o Organic Farm
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