Mahi Pono Reaches Milestone of Planting 1 Millionth Tree in Less Than Three Years
* Updated November 11, 6:30 AM
Maui-based farming company, Mahi Pono, celebrated its milestone of planting 1 million trees within its Central Maui farm, Tuesday. The achievement comes in less than three years.
To commemorate the occasion, Mahi Pono along with its team of 300 employees, joined together with members of the community to celebrate reaching the significant landmark in its mission “to create a thriving hub of diversified agriculture and increase food security for the island of Maui, and the state of Hawai‘i.”
“Planting 1 million trees is no small task and the impacts that it will have in fighting climate change, producing locally-grown food and creating jobs are all positive for the island of Maui and our state,” said Kainoa Casco, project manager for farming and sustainability with Mahi Pono. “This milestone is part of the bigger picture for sustainability at Mahi Pono and we are only at the start of our responsible farming journey.”
Mahi Pono took over stewardship of 41,000 acres of former sugarcane land on Maui in 2018. The company’s vision is to revitalize the Central Maui plain with diversified agriculture that priortizes food sustainability and reduces Hawai‘i’s reliance on imported food.
With the state of Hawai‘i currently importing approximately 90% of all of its food and the history of monocroped sugarcane in the area dating back more than 125 years, being able to plant 1 million trees, many of which will be used for food production, represents a major commitment to Hawai‘i’s future according to Mahi Pono.
“Maui is facing monumental threats from the world-wide climate crisis. A key element in reducing the effects of climate change and eventually turning it around, is to plant and maintain a large number of trees,” said Rob Weltman, founder of ReTree Hawai‘i, a statewide tree planting effort.
“Trees and other plants absorb and store carbon to prevent it from reaching the atmosphere and increasing global warming and they bind the soil and prevent runoff and erosion. Mahi Pono’s planting of 1 million trees on our island is a major milestone in fighting climate change and we are encouraged that the company plans to continue its massive expansion of Maui’s tree cover while conserving water resources and preserving soil productivity through regenerative farming techniques,” said Weltman.
Among the 1 million trees are a variety of citrus plants, including limes, lemons, tangelos, mandarins and grapefruit. There is also coffee, avocado, papaya, ‘ulu and several types of windbreak plants like panax, hau and milo. Milo was historically used in Hawai‘i as a drought and salt-tolerant windbreak plant.
The 1 millionth tree planted today was ‘ulu, a type of breadfruit and a staple Polynesian food crop. “We chose ʻulu to be our 1 millionth tree because it symbolizes what we are striving for at Mahi Pono: to sustainably feed Hawai‘i for generations,” said Tiare Lawrence, community relations director at Mahi Pono. “ʻUlu trees can grow to a large size, provide hundreds of pounds of food annually, sequester carbon, reduce the need to till the soil or control weeds, and are heat and drought tolerant. Its versatility, nutritional value and beauty add to its significance to kanaka ʻōiwi (native Hawaiians) as the kinolau (form or manifestation) of the god Kū.”
In addition to providing a sustainable food resource, the 1 million trees will significantly offset carbon emissions, according to Mahi Pono. Between the variety of tree species that have been planted, it is estimated that when the trees reach full maturity they will capture thousands of pounds of carbon each year that will aid Mahi Pono in being a climate positive organization.
Mahi Pono’s farming practices, aided by modern technology, has enabled the company to reach its 1 millionth tree planting goal in less than three years, while significantly cutting back on emissions and making efficient use of resources, including water. Some of the technology incorporated into their farming operations include:
- In-house custom fabricated planting machines guided by GPS technology that enabled them to plant more than 10,000 trees per day;
- Water-efficient drip and fanjet irrigation techniques that reduce water consumption; and
- Installation of weedmats throughout the orchards that help to keep the soil moist which reduces water needs and also reduces the need for herbicides to control unwanted weeds.
Lawrence further commented, “Planting 1 million trees is a testament to the hard work of the incredible Mahi Pono field teams. Our teams are comprised of local Maui residents who come to work each day eager to change Maui’s food future and move the farm forward for all of Hawai‘i.”
Mahi Pono supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Aloha+ Challenge, which is a statewide commitment to achieve Hawai‘i ’s sustainability goals and a locally driven framework to implement the U.N.’s SDGs.
“Our goal is to be a climate positive organization. For Mahi Pono, sustainability is about working collaboratively with the broader community to achieve Hawai‘i’s environmental, social, cultural and economic goals as a whole,” said Casco.
Mahi Pono’s produce can be found in select Hawaiֲ‘i stores under its Maui Harvest label and in restaurants across the state.