Growing kalo in Makaweli

WAIMEA — What kine kalo you grow?

Mike Vincent of Pearl City said he grows all kinds.

“I grow kalo in containers, now,” Vincent said. “I grow different kinds in different scenario to see which ones do best. I have to water them four times a day because we don’t have water ever since they blocked the ditch.”

He and Jonah Fonacier flew in Monday morning to check out the Kalo Awareness event, “e ma‘ona ka ‘opu — may your stomach be satisfied,” which filled the Hofgaard Park with music, generous sampling of different kalo, and even a poi bowl special.

“We saw it on Instagram and figured we could fly in for a day,” Vincent said. “This is a really good event. This is nice.”

Vincent’s trip was enhanced when he got a bundle of kalo shoots from Leah Carr, one of the Waimea High School seniors who spearheaded the event as a senior project.

“We used to go to the lo‘i with our paddling coach, Kaina Makua, a lot,” said Maia Young, Carr’s partner with the project. “Kaina Makua became our senior project mentor after we wanted to incorporate the Hawaiian culture into our senior project. By raising awareness of kalo, we can support ourselves and our families, and the younger people can continue to spread the awareness.”

The pair of girls set out to make their project reality.

“Aunty, you get one lauhala mat we can borrow?” Aletha Kaohi of the Westside Visitor Center said. “Yes. You can borrow. And, if you need other help, come ask.”

The gesture brought Kaohi to Hofgaard Park with a historical exhibit on kalo, personalized by herself sitting and talking tales of kalo growing and eating.

“Growing kalo has so many challenges,” she said. “But people overcome them. These two students were thinking ‘what is the best way to educate people about taro?’ It’s wonderful to see them team with Kaina to give people kalo awareness.”

Kaohi said the girls made all of the poi boards and stones people were using to create poi from kalo at the Kalo Awareness event. The girls were in front of the market on Friday night distributing fliers so people would drop in.

“My dad was performing,” said Tia Lardizabal. “I was tired of just hanging around the house, so I came because I learned a little in sign language class and wanted to find out more.”

Young said she hopes the one-day event in Waimea is a stepping stone for future events.

“We have the younger people learning how to make poi,” Young said. “We want to continue this and have it grow — just like the kalo.”

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