Nonprofit to host food, film festival

Maui Huliau Foundation, a nonprofit organization offering environmental education programs to Maui youth, will host its second annual farm-to-table benefit dinner and food-focused film festival under the stars at Ocean Vodka Organic Farm starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

This year’s Huliau Food & Film Festival will tell the stories and share the flavors of the canoe plants carried by Polynesian voyagers to Hawaii. In a documentary short film competition, 7th- through 12th-grade students from schools all over Maui will explore how heritage plants such as kalo (taro), ko (sugar cane), kukui (candlenut), niu (coconut), ‘uala (sweet potato), and ‘ulu (breadfruit) have thrived and been cultivated as food for generations.

Chefs on Maui led by JJ Johnson of O’o Farms, Marc McDowell of The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation, Lyndon Honda of Laulima Events and Catering, Isaac Bancaco of Andaz Maui at Wailea, James Simpliciano of SimpliFresh Farms, and John Cadman of Pono Pies, will serve Polynesian-inspired pupu, a kiawe-grilled main course and dessert.

Guests will enjoy live music and a silent auction and will vote for their favorite student film.

All dishes will feature canoe plants and locally sourced ingredients from farms around the island including fresh greens from Kumu Farms, a handpicked harvest from O’o Farm in Kula, and produce from SimpliFresh on the west side. The day’s fresh catch will be donated by local suppliers including Maui Seafood, Fresh Island Fish and “Start Me Up” charter fishing boats.

“Local, organic and seasonal foods are just so much more flavorful and are absolutely full of mana,” said Johnson. “The soil is enriched, there are no chemicals poisoning the aina, and great nutrient value is guaranteed. I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to share, educate and learn through the experience of all-natural farming. There is no comparison,” he said.

Food and beverage sponsors O’o Farms, Whole Foods, Ali’i Kula Lavender and Life Foods will provide ingredients, and Maui Brewing Co., Ulupalakua Winery and Ocean Vodka will stock a 100 percent local bar. Event sponsors include Rising Sun Solar, CDF Engineering and Blue Ginger Hawai’i.

Maui Huliau Foundation will also screen other student films produced by its filmmaking students this year, including “The Coralax,” a Dr. Seuss-inspired claymation examining human impact on coral reefs, and a short film documenting Huliau students’ journey through Haleakala crater this summer.

“I like participating in community events, especially an event that works with Maui youth to promote environmental education and sustainability,” said McDowell. “We need to think about buying local always and becoming a sustainable island.”

“We are fortunate to have an amazing community of chefs and farmers here on Maui who are excited about the growing local food movement and eager to share their passion with our students,” said Maui Huliau Executive Director Malia Cahill. “In addition to enjoying a delicious farm-to-table meal, guests will get to experience this excitement via our student films while helping raise much-needed funds for our youth programs” she said.

Tickets are $80 per person for a four-course dinner, with one complimentary drink and a cash bar, and are available to purchase online at

The event is open to those 21 and over. Ocean Vodka Organic Farm is at 4051 Omaopio Road in lower Kula.

All proceeds will benefit environmental education programs for youth on Maui including the Huliau Youth Environmental Filmmaking program, Huliau Hui Laulima community education program and Huliau Youth Leaders program for grades 9-12 working on projects in watershed protection, sustainable agriculture and marine sciences.