When Hōkūao Pellegrino was growing up in the ahupua‘a of Waikapū on Maui, he often played on an overgrown piece of family land, building clubhouses in the jungle of invasive species that crowded it. But when he became a young man—after he’d embraced ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, studied native plants and woken up to his genealogical connection to the ‘land—he discovered that it had a powerful history: Buried deep beneath the jungle were lo‘i kalo his ‘ohana had cultivated for centuries, until the 1940s. Hōkūao decided to restore them. The project was adopted by ‘Onipa‘a o Nā Hui Kalo and on one weekend in July, 2004, 130 people showed up to restore the first lo‘i. Eleven years later, what is now Noho‘ana Farm has restored five lo‘i, hosted thousands of students and feeds people across Maui. Hōkūaoʻs older family members have been a key part of it all.
“The very first person to plant kalo back onto this ‘āina, his name was Wilfred Ennis, he was born and raised on this property and one of those that left at a very early age. For him to plant that very first kalo when it was his grandfather and father that were the last kalo farmers, it was really touching. That’s been the greatest joy, seeing those family members of mine, now they’re in their 80s, some are in their 90s, coming back with tears of joy to see that this land went back to what that original purpose was, to cultivate food for feeding your family and community.”