Don’t panic, the food here is organic

By | September 25th, 2010

Not a week seems to go by without getting a press release from a restaurant claiming to embrace the sustainable food movement. I have been unimpressed. Isn’t all food, by its very definition, sustainable?

All that changed yesterday. That’s when I met Gary Maunakea-Forth of MA‘O Organic Farms in Wai‘anae, Hawaii, on a modest parcel of land framed by the immense radio telescopes operated by the U.S. military on the Niuli’i Reservoir.

MA‘O is a non-profit organization that teaches future leaders organic farming, and also produces some of the best darned lettuce, tangerines and turnips you’ve ever tasted. Its staff works in shirts that say “No Panic … Go Organic.”


Many of the Hawaiians I met are deeply religious, which might explain the presence of an altar (pictured above) where traditional ceremonies are sometimes performed before work begins.

Maunakea-Forth also showed us what “farm-to-table” really meant when he met us after work at Ed Kenney’s Town Restaurant in Kaimuki. Kenney explained how he uses the organic produce to create first-rate fusion cuisine, including Gnocchi, Tuna Tartare, and Opah.

MA‘O doesn’t get a lot of visits from people who come to Hawaii on vacation, which is too bad. The tour prompted my middle child, Iden, to ask me about organic farming. I explained the advantages of growing produce without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and best of all, he got to taste the difference.



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