LIHU‘E — Kaneshiro Farms was on the doorsteps of its 100th anniversary when Valerie Kaneshiro was diagnosed with Stage Four pancreatic cancer.
“Those of you who remember me can tell — I look different,” Valerie said in remarks at the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau convention following her diagnosis. “I have stage 4 pancreatic cancer, so I probably don’t have much time left on earth. At the end of life, end of career, people always think about their loves and their regrets. Do I have regrets? Do I regret not taking better care of myself those year I was staying up all night working on the Farm Fair? Do I regret not ‘being there’ for my family because I was organizing and running pork industry business? There was one time we left a sick son with fever at home while the family went to host the Annual Meeting of the Kaua‘i Pork Producers Council (it was just a few hours, and just down the road)…hmm…No. No regrets! — because of the other half of end-of-life thoughts — love.”
“I love the farm. I love being with other farmers. I love my pigs. I love helping other pig farmers be successful. I love education, and educating others. I love enthusiasm, I love commitment, and dedication…yes, I love my family and my children. They’re why I dedicated myself to the farm, and the agriculture industry. Kodomo no Tami Ni — for the sake of the children — has been my motivation. I hope they ‘get it.’”
Kaneshiro Farms, on its 100th anniversary, transferred part of its herd and its multi-generational breeding program to ‘Aina Ho‘okupu O Kilauea as part of its pig incubator program involving local families.
Struggling against the fingers of cancer and the roadblocks created by the Stay at Home mandates from COVID 19, Valerie trekked from Omao to Kilauea to witness and experience the birthing of two litters with sow No. 3 farrowing on the same afternoon in April to cement the transfer to the program where AHK plans on building a pig pen on a host family’s property, to provide the pigs veterinarian services, and buy the pigs back once they are at market size.
This is one of the 30 programs that shared in a total of $721,739 in grants funded by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to support community-based food security efforts in Native Hawaiian communities throughout the state.
The grants support Hawai‘i Community Foundation Strong Funds for each count, including Kaua‘i Strong, O‘ahu Strong, Maui County Strong, and Hawai‘i Island Strong that were created to build community resilience by providing resources for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The award recipients were selected based on their ability to address COVID-related food needs while integrating aloha ‘aina, sustainability, and local agriculture into their programs. The food security grants funding comes from a portion of the $3 million Emergency Relief Package passed by the OHA Board of Trustees in May, 2020.
“In this time of immense need, we are grateful that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has made it possible for community-based organizations across our state to increase food security efforts and also perpetuate Native Hawaiian practices that will ensure our state’s resiliency for the future,” said Micah Kane, the president and CEO of Hawai‘i Community Foundation.
Kaua‘i organizations received six awards under this program. Joining ‘Aina Ho‘okupu O Kilauea, Kumano I Ke Ala O Makaweli was granted for its plans to increase food security by planting dry land kalo on its acreage located in Waimea Valley that will triple the amount currently being produced by West Kaua‘i farmers. The group will continue to operate its summer and after school cultural enrichments programs that serves 50 Native Hawaiian youth with the knowledge of ‘aina-based farming and Hawaiian culture learned is shared year-over-year as the older youth become mentors to the incoming youth in the program.
Kukulu Kumuhana O Anahola has established Ulupono Anahola, an agricultural training and youth center to provide support for the families of Anahola by reviving kalo farming and growing their own food while creating a safe place for the youth to be nurtured into future leaders for Anahola.
Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana are the stewards of 15 acres of ancient Hawai‘i lands located in Ha‘ena and continue to provide a safe place for families to farm, fish, and maintain mental and spiritual health through connection to ‘aina.
Malama Hule‘ia will start the next phase of restoration on the ancient Hawaiian Fishpond, Alekoko, and replant the area with Native Hawaiian plants and trees following its multi-year phase of removing the invasive mangrove.
Na Maka Onaona has partnered with ‘Aina Ho‘okupu O Kilauea to organize and distribute 2,000 produce boxes each week across Kaua‘i, reaching communities from Ha‘ena to Kekaha. The group utilizes the help of several local organizations to deliver and arrange pickups in the communities.
“The pandemic has highlighted the need for sustainability and the importance of locally-produced food,” said OHA CEO Sylvia Hussey. “These grants will provide crucial support to community-based nonprofits, farmers and producers across the state. In turn, Native Hawaiian communities will be able to access fresh, local food to keep their ‘ohana nourished in the near term, and resources that will allow them to perpetuate ‘aina-based sustainable practices and Native Hawaiian traditions in the long term.”
The HCF Strong Fund also awarded 15 grants to O‘ahu organizations, 10 groups on Maui, and eight programs on Hawai‘i Island.