At Latter-day Saint Charities, we believe that everyone should have access to a variety of nutritious foods. We work with humanitarian relief agencies throughout the world to provide life-sustaining resources to God's children everywhere. Our efforts include maintaining farmlands to improve food security for those in need.
Oahu's north shore, known for its awe-inspiring beauty and big-wave surfing, is home to the Laie Hawaii Crops Farm, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This crops farm was established by local Church leadership in the mid-1900s in the community of Hauula. The 178-acre expanse of lush farmland tells a story of hard work, harvest, and a community of sharing.
The farm is divided into plots of up to 1.25 acres. Each lot is fenced and organized according to the specific needs of individual farmers and their families.
Last year's COVID-19 shutdowns affected Hawaii's tourism industry, resulting in higher unemployment and, for some, food insecurity. Local bishops increasingly referred Church members in need to the Laie crops farm, and in 2020, 130 new farm plots were created—almost 14 times more than in the previous year. Now some 230 farms are being tilled by over 310 families.
The farm has served as a very important tool for bishops to help members in need while teaching gospel principles of self-reliance and consecration. It has helped feed families in the community who take care of the land, and it has also saved them up to $1,000 per month on food bills.
Many helping hands are answering the call to "love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22:39) through service.
Elder Mons Ellingson and Sister Sarah Ellingson, current farm managers and service missionaries, have spent the better part of a year clearing dense jungle-like vegetation and laying irrigation pipes to create the new farm plots. "The first six months of our mission, we didn't visit one beach. We still haven't had a [day off]," jokes Elder Ellingson. Before their mission, Sister Ellingson had never operated heavy equipment. Now she drives a tractor and an excavator to help create and maintain roads on the farm.
Opening the Gates
Accompanying these new land plots are new farmers. Frequently lacking seeds, plant starters, or gardening skills, these people receive supplies and support from the more experienced farmers. "When the farmers come, we help them out to start their own farms by providing them with young bananas to plant. Before long, everybody has what we have. that is how it is," says Similati Vamisi, previous farm manager.
Similati's land has an abundance of breadfruit. Breadfruit is a starchy staple for Pacific Islanders and is expensive to purchase. "I am the one who has the most breadfruit [on the farm]. It has fed a lot of people. My intention was just for me and my ward, but it ended up feeding everybody who farmed over here. When I am here, they'll say, 'Can we have some [breadfruit]?' I just open my gates and say, 'Take whatever you want,'" says Similati.
Sharing the Blessings
Phillips Ieremia is new to the farm. His plot is impressive, bearing rows of taro, sweet potato, bananas, passion fruit, peanuts, and bok choy.
Passion fruit grows beautifully on his hand-built pergola. He often gives his extra yield to his ministering sister. (Ministering sisters and brothers are Church members who provide support and service to others within their congregation.) "She loves this stuff [passion fruit]. She makes juice with [it] all the time for [Church] activities," says Phillips. "What we love about the farm here is being able to share it."
Aokuso and Asotafao Avea have been working on the Laie crops farm. They value hard work, family, and sharing. Working on the farm keeps them, their children, and their grandchildren active, fed, and happy.
"We were blessed since we have this piece of land to plant crops, not only for me and my family, but we provide for other people who need it," says Aokuso.
An Abundance of Love
The Laie Hawaii Crops Farm community produces not only an abundance of food but also an abundance of love.
"There is a saying in Hawaii that says when you take care of the plants, they in return will take care of you," says Lono Logan. The same can be said about people. When we care for the people around us, we are serving God, who cares for us. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).
Latter-day Saint Charities encourages everyone to find ways to care for and serve their neighbors locally. For ideas on how to get started, visit JustServe.org.