It becomes more and more clear — serving community is serving our mission. In searching for innovative and effective ways to continue to serve our community, we discovered that actively building better ways to share venison is actually a huge unlock for accelerating our mission goals.
For years, we have not been able to address the management needs of smaller private landowners on Maui, their size making USDA harvests too inefficient to feasibly operate.As our food-sharing commitments grow, smaller properties may become the perfect place for Holo 'Ai efforts.
Working with a number of small landowners will both mitigate deer damage specific to each new area as well as accelerate our mission goal of balancing deer numbers across the core population in Upcountry Maui. Because of strict regulations around wild-harvests, all venison harvested in these smaller areas can only be used as food donations.
Building capacity to expand our team and fleet as well as building the relationships that will help expand our Holo 'Ai Program will be no small feat. Food-sharing for the long haul will require many more hands for lifting. And so we are very excited to team up with Elemental Excelerator to take this from idea to execution and to help us achieve our commitments to both people and place, to our community and to our mission both.
The news of our inclusion in Elemental Excelerator’s 12th Cohort is now over a month old, but the gratefulness and excitement we felt on receiving that wonderful news is still with us; a month on and we are still glowing from the beautiful week we spent with our fellow and brilliant cohort leaders in Kahuku, Oʻahu.
Such a storied place is Kahuku. Present-day, she is the stretched-out and fertile headland that forms Oʻahu's northernmost point, but once, as our stories tell, she was detached and adrift out across a coastal submergence from Oʻahu. She was called Kahuku-lewa, Floating Kahuku. Kahuku-lewa was an unstable place and so, in those same stories, Maui, our deified ancestor, using two mythical fishhooks - Pōlou and Kalou - pulled Kahuku-lewa in and fixed the floating island to Oʻahu. In this way, Kahuku was made paʻa — firm and stable.
This is the story that I humbly shared, like the innumerable storytellers before me, when I was invited to offer a wehena, an opening, for Elementalʻs week-long Cohort 12 Kick-off. Standing at Kahuku’s Kuilima Point at sunset, I recounted the tale as an offering to place, but also as a kiʻi, as an image or theme, to hold onto in the week and maybe even the years to come.
Lewa means to float, to be buoyant physically and also in spirit. This was what I saw in the circle of Cohort 12. I saw bright entrepreneurs aglow with their powerful imaginations and their sturdy hopes for the future, entrepreneurs who have stared down our current ecological reality and, while grounded in the pain that so many of us feel for the degradation we see all around, decided to change their minds, to change the narrative of our doomed trajectory to one of regeneration and then to throw their lives behind it. They brought with them their stories and plans for transformative technologies — re-imaginings of critical resource sourcing, carbon removal, and abundant food systems, each company hoping to meet our ecological challenges with innovations that center community, reduce pollution, restore soil and lower energy costs. It was a humbling week amongst them all, to say the least.
But, like an island afloat, our imaginations and our hopes must find their moors. Lewa also carries a connotation of being unanchored and can be used to describe something that has not yet fully arrived. And this is when we invoke the sweeping drama of Kahuku’s story, of giant fishhooks that pull her closer and closer to O’ahu until, at last, she lands and takes root. With this latest cohort, Elemental is infusing $12.5M into climate solutions, adding our cohort of 15 companies to an existing portfolio of more than 150 investments since 2014, all aimed at radical regeneration of our planet and its future. For Maui Nui, Elemental’s investment will help further connect us, like a proverbial fishing line, to an expanded Holo ‘Ai Program, helping to pull us closer to a sustainable model for long-term food-sharing. That aho, that fishing line, is not only an analogy for capital, of course. Our aho will also be made up of the ties we make within the Elemental community, and, as it has always been, the strong sinews of our own community on Maui, of the working-together that has brought us this far and by which we continue to be pulled forward.
The kiʻi of Kahuku reminds me that we can always make a shift. If we are pessimistic about our futures, we remain adrift. But we can change our minds, we can tell better stories and then, hopefully with some collective pulling, we can ground ourselves and our hopes in action.