LAHAINA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - After more than a century, taro is now once again growing in Kahoma Valley on Maui.
On Sunday, scores of people — from keiki to kupuna — planted 70 stalks of kalo in the valley.
It's taken years to restore the flow from Kahoma Stream, re-build the taro patch and learn the ways of farming kalo. Many called it a historic rebirth of culture and the environment.
"Taro has not grown in that valley for 130 years. For us to do the first planting in 130 years ... was really amazing," said Lahaina resident Archie Kalepa.
For decades, the loi or taro patches in the valley were dry because the water from Kahoma Stream had been diverted to irrigate sugar plantations.
After sugar's demise, Kalepa's family worked with Kamehameha Schools for eight years to get the Kahoma Stream flowing again from mauka to makai, feeding the taro fields with fresh water.
"Within the last year, we saw the water turn crystal clear. The river itself is saturated and the water is cold, which is really important for the survival of the marine life," said Kalepa, whose family owns the parcel where the kalo was planted.
Dozens gathered Sunday to celebrate the historic planting and release of native shrimp and snails, including Polynesian Voyaging Society President and former Kamehameha Schools trustee Nainoa Thompson.
He praised his fellow trustees for having the vision that the school's valuable land assets could benefit education, culture and the environment.
"Today is about a miracle of renewal," he said. "We are moving. This is not just important for Kahoma, this is important for every stream. Every family who lost their lands for the wrong reason. It's important for all of them."
Kalepa hopes to create a non-profit so the family lo'i can be a center of culture-based learning in the the future.