In 1921, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act intended to return native Hawaiians to the land while encouraging them to become self-sufficient farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders on leased parcels of reserved land. This Act set aside lands for Native Hawaiians. [ Hawaiian Homes Commission Act ]
"After extensive investigation and survey on the part of the various organizations organized to rehabilitate
the Hawaiian race, it was found that the only method in which to rehabilitate the race was to place the back
upon the soil."
– Delegate Kalanianaʻole
Here in South Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island, the homestead of Keaukaha Hawaiian Homestead was the first residential homestead developed on Hawaiʻi Island in 1924 to place socially disadvantaged native Hawaiians onto reserve lands. In 1976, Keaukaha-Panaʻewa Homestead was the second homestead on Hawaiʻi Island to be mapped out and made available as agricultural farming opportunities for native Hawaiians. The first awards of these agriculture lots were granted to (50) Keaukaha Hawaiian Homestead residents that were forced to relocate in order to build the new Hilo International Airport.
Today, Keaukaha-Panaʻewa Farmers Association (renamed from Keaukaha-Panaʻewa Hawaiian Homestead) is home to 1,140 Native Hawaiians, 285 agriculture lots, situated on 1,615 acres. Central to these agricultural lots, a Hawaiian Farmers Market and Resource Hub was constructed into a space that native Hawaiian farmers could assemble, share traditional farming practices and customary methods of food preparation. The cultural significance of farming to Hawaiians is that we have a pilina (connection) to the land. That connection is to be supported by customary farming practices with knowledge passed down through generations well versed in the environment and farming methods of this particular area. For native Hawaiians, the practice of gathering together and sharing knowledge with food is our aloha kekahi i kekahi (caring for one another) and contributes to our cultural identity and overall health and well-being. To foster this community outreach setting for our community, Keaukaha-Panaʻewa Community Alliance (KPCA) was incorporated in 2012 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity. A small number of Keaukaha-Panaʻewa Farmers Association (KPFA) members formed KPCA to focus on seeking funding to support KPFAsʻ objectives and projects. The mission of KPCA is to align with KPFA in itsʻ mission to serve itsʻ community, and to serve as itsʻ fiscal sponsor. This partnership streamlined acquisition of funding to support this market and resource hub, which naturally evolved into an outreach setting and allowed the farming community to thrive in itsʻ own cultural setting.
Today, KPCA and KPFA work hand-in-hand to foster this special setting at Panaʻewa Hub, and provide farmers and potential farmers with education programs and resources. Affirmed in KPFA Bylaws (2010), an Agriculture Committee was organized and itsʻ mission is to evaluate and create viable training opportunities and resources for our farming community to be successful farmers – whether it be farm-to-table for subsistence or farm-to-market to feed our community.