At 14, a Big Island teen came up with a way to help local farmers

Famers, ranchers on Hawaii Island turn to tech for sales during shutdown

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - "So your mushrooms are probably going to soak up most of the butter," Kamahao Ocean Kanekoa says in one of his online cooking videos.

The Big Island teenager wants to be a chef like his dad, and he’s off to a good start. He has already won awards for his cooking.

“I did the 2019 Keiki in the Kitchen food and wine competition. I got first place in that,” he said. “And I entered a poke contest and I got first place in the traditional and second place in fusion.”

But that’s not all he’s cooking up. To help small farms in Waimea and Waikoloa hurt by the economic downturn the 14-year-old started an online farmers’ market called Paina by Ocean.

“I just wanted to make sure that they could still move their product and they could still have some business so they wouldn’t have to go out of business and have to start laying off their workers,” he said.

The entire Kanekoa ohana is involved. They fill the orders and staff the pick-up sites. Each pack costs about $25. The money goes back to the farmers and ranchers.

"During the first week our goal was to sell 25 paina bags, and that first week we ended up selling a hundred. The following week that grew into 200 paina bags," Kamahao's sister Jaydene said.

Kamahao also produces the cooking videos for his website painabyocean.com.

"Our videos usually are based around a couple of products that we'll have in the bag that week," he said.

His online market features farm fresh fruits and vegetables and meats from local ranches.

The effort was intended to be an eight-week project while the Kanekoa family was furloughed from their jobs. But they may keep the online market going even after the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are gone.

"Even though we're not working our normal jobs, I feel like we've been working more than ever with this project -- in a good way," Jaydene said.

Requests to buy fruits and veggies from Paina by Ocean have come from the neighbor islands and the mainland, but the family can only service orders from customers near the Waimea and Waikoloa areas.

Jaydene is impressed by her brother's desire to help growers.

"I think for Kamahao, his main mission is to teach everyone where your food comes from and how important that is," she said..

Kamahao is an eighth-grader. He hopes his actions motivate others of any age to take action.

"Even if it's just a little thing helping a little bit of people, it's much better than not helping anybody. That's what I think," he said.

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