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Wai'anae Gold 'Aina Bar Hapa
‘Ai Pohaku – The Stone Eaters is a community-based economic endeavor that continues to nurture and grow our ‘aina connection through the cultivation, gathering and production of real food. They are on the path to creating “livelihood” for their community and island nation. With a strong foundation of the tradition of ku‘i kalo (hand pounding kalo into pa‘i‘ai and poi), they have spent a good part of the last 10 years learning about kiawe as a food for their people. Even though kiawe has been in the islands for almost 200 years, this ancient food is brand new for almost all of Hawai‘i’s people.
The founder of ‘Ai Pohaku, Vince Kana‘i Dodge, is a papa (grandfather), educator, cultural practitioner and longtime resident of Wai‘anae where kiawe trees are plentiful. One day in early 2006 on MA‘O Organic Farms a couple from Arizona shared that “mesquite” – the cousin of kiawe – was a staple of all the Southwest native peoples. They said it was a sweet, nutritious and diabetic-friendly food. At that time the Wai‘anae community was in the throes of a diabetic epidemic. Imagine: a sweet, nutritious diabetic-friendly food growing in their backyards… Vince was called. They believe it is no accident that the concentration of kiawe and diabetes are in the same place.
Since then they traveled to Tucson, Arizona to take the Desert Harvesters’ mesquite milling training in 2009 (www.desertharvesters.org), and in 2012 to Argentina to visit with the Wichi people who continue to eat kiawe daily as they have been for a thousand years. Through their journey, they acquired a small mill designed to grind kiawe bean pods into flour.
‘Ai Pohaku is deeply involved in their community, working with Elementary to High School youth; some of the houseless people; with cultural practitioners; with aunties and uncles; with passionate cooks, chefs and bakers; with their friends here, on the continent and in Argentina; with their families and many lovers of the ‘aina.