Ka'ala Farm teaches lessons taught centuries ago

Published: Jul. 1, 2009 at 9:49 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 1, 2009 at 3:23 PM HST
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Butch Detroye
Butch Detroye
Brennen Scarborough
Brennen Scarborough
Haley Chang
Haley Chang

By Leland Kim - bio | email

WAI'ANAE VALLEY (KHNL) - Whether you're stuck in traffic on the H-1 Freeway, or waiting in line at the grocery store, it's easy to get bogged down with life. But there's a place on the leeward coast that gets down to the basics and teaches people how to live off the 'aina.

Deep in the heart of Wai'anae valley lives a place untouched by modern technology. No iPods here. Just a guitar in your arms, and a song on your lips.

Folks at Ka'ala Farm live the way native Hawaiians did hundreds of years ago.

"Their ancestors are the ones that survived in these areas," said Butch Detroye, who helps run Ka'ala Farm. "They sustained life for generations inside here and all of that aloha they put to sustaining life, that's the aloha that's still here."

And that seed of aloha are being planted by a new generation of kids. These students are learning how to live off the land.

"We learned the methods they used and why they did it like plants and other things," said Brennen Scarborough, a 12-year-old seventh grader from Moanalua Middle School."

"It's like walking in their footsteps when you take on their responsibilities," said Haley Chang, a 12-year-old seventh grader from Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Pearl City.

And they do just that, marching up the valley to a taro patch. They pick, clean, and gather taro plants to be made into poi and other food later.

"We have to take care of the land so the land takes care of us because we survive off the food on the land and the water," said Chang. "And if we don't take care of that, we won't have anything left."

That's why Ka'ala Farm is teaching lessons taught centuries ago.

"We have to get back on the Hawaiian way of thinking instead of a western way of thinking," said Detroye. "Hawaiian way of thinking was more of getting along with the 'aina, working with it. Of course it affected the 'aina like all humans do, but as much as possible to get along with it and work with it."

Many places in Hawaii start with "wai" which means fresh water. Wai'anae translates to "water of the mullet fish." Ancient Hawaiians saw water as vital to their survival, but these days, natural resources have dwindled down.

At one point five streams flowed down from Ka'ala into the ocean. Now there's only two. Water that comes out of a pipe in the valley comes from one of the surviving two.

So, water is the key that unlocks the richness the valley has to offer.

"Because water - wai ola, the source of life -- we cannot do anything without fresh water," said Detroye.

Something that quenches gives life and educates thirsty minds.

"If you always rely on electricity, the environment is going to be nothing to you but when it's all gone, you're going to sit back and realize, 'Oh, I could've enjoyed this," said Scarborough. "This is what this is all about. This is what living in Hawaii is about."

Ka'ala Farm's Cultural Learning Center teaches groups how to live off the mountain and the ocean. If you want to learn more, you can find them in Wai'anae Valley.