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  • Mark Hamamoto

Rooted in Love on a Country Farm

Mark Hamamoto has worked with non-profit and faith-based communities for over 20 years. Currently Mark is the Farm Director and Lead Farmer at Mohala Farms.

On a recent trip to Molokai I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Don’t change Molokai. Let Molokai change you.” It’s a perfect statement that gets at the heart of popular feelings there. My experience living and working at Mohala Farms these last 16 years is very closely connected to that bumper sticker’s mana’o. In other words, it’s not just about all the outward things that an organic farm can do for the world that is important, the real transformation that is most important is the one that takes place inwardly. We need to be changed. Transformation of our world begins within. When we become more strongly rooted in a way of seeing and being in the world that is deeply fulfilling and empowering, what we do and how we do things will follow course.

Perhaps living and working on a farm out in the country is akin to the Bible’s repeated theme of returning ‘to the wilderness.’ The wilderness is the place to strip one’s self away from both our creature comforts and endless distractions and re-connect with God in a more primal, primordial way. And so Molokai is that symbol of the wilderness, that has the power to change you. And in a small, kipuka kind of way, so, too, can a 6-acre organic farm be a place of wilderness.

When I first moved out to the farm, it was just weeds, located between the ruins of an old Catholic church and cemetery and Kaukonahua gulch/stream. There was no electricity, no water, no toilet. Those things took months to initially set-up. In the meantime, the night sky was my TV screen and from dusk to dawn there would be a completely live, once-in-a-lifetime new show. It was spectacular. Existing for months in an area devoid of any artificial lights allows one to experience the incredible difference between a night sky with a full moon and one without any moon at all. Bright moon shadows during the full moons. Complete darkness during the new moon phase. For this Kaimuki boy, it was a revelation.

This is one example of nature’s rhythms that people raised in cities will never really know. On the farm during summer months, we get up earlier and take longer mid-day breaks. You can’t fight the heat, but learn to adjust to the seasonal rhythms, as people have always done for countless generations. A strict 40-hour, 8-hour a day work week is an aberration of nature, like straight lines. It’s a factory invention, not a farmer’s.

Of course, one of the main things that happen on a farm is the growing of food to eat. We grow using all natural inputs, always working to keep the soil healthy and alive with nutrients, air/oxygen, and those millions of minions that are micro-organisms, the key to good health in the soil and in our own bodies. We grow a diversity of food crops – things like collard greens, turnips, beets, tatsoi, celery, lettuce. We have tree crops of breadfruit, coconuts, lemons, limes, soursop, guavas and papaya. We grow kalo, bananas, sugarcane. And then there is the wild plantago (laukahi) and native uhaloa, wild pigs and peacock, and the exchange of locally-caught fish from friends for our produce. Becoming more sustainable on a country farm involves a transformation in one’s diet – learning to eat and enjoy that which the land (and sea) provides for you, still, in abundant ways.

And beyond just the food aspect of a country farm there is quite a bit more that falls under the category of being ‘sustainable’ – the most overused word of the century. Both native (loulu) and non-native (ironwood) trees in the area provided the thatching material and wood for the farm’s hale, and is currently being harvested to re-thatch and re-construct the hale for it’s next 10 – 20 years of life. Pohaku from around the farm make the hale walls. Bamboo that is grown on the farm provide roofing support for tent canopies. Poumuli, from Samoa, is being grown to provide an additional, fast-growing wood

supply for future hale’s. Composting toilets on the farm continue to evolve in their design to make the most comfortable and efficient use of this once prized natural resource and fertilizer. Compost piles, worm bins, solar dryers and ovens, wauke growing and kapa making, palm frond hats, coconut shell planters, kukui nut oil – all farm products that honor and value the resources right around us. The more we learn to understand and utilize the gifts of the land, the deeper the inner transformation takes place.

Though there are innumerable ways of being rooted in love, at Mohala Farms that rootedness happens, in part, by the stripping away of all kinds of ‘baggage’ that blinds us and sucks our souls dry. We are so easily rooted in a materialistic, consumeristic and individualistic way of life. We are so easily rooted in our political ideologies and nationalistic identities. We are so easily rooted in all kinds of fears, stresses and anxieties that our world and culture and families are embedded in and perpetuate. God, in the natural world and in the wilderness, liberates us from these lifeless, diseased growing conditions and renews us with living water, living air, living soil. New roots emerge that allow us to see humans in their rightful place. “The mighty will be pulled down from their thrones and the lowly will be lifted up.” This upheaval did not sit well with those in the seats of power and Jesus paid for his vision with his life. But the final word to his disciples, after the resurrection in Mark’s gospel, was this: “He is going ahead of you to Galilee, just as he has told you.” Go back to the farms. Back to the wilderness. Stay rooted in the love that is at the very heart of this creation.

A modified version of this article was originally published in the October 2021 issue of The Friend.


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