Olin Kealoha Lagon Cultivating Community-Driven Changephoto for article

Posted May 8, 2023

After enduring a violent and poverty-stricken childhood, serial social entrepreneur and Native Hawaiian Olin Kealoha Lagon oscillates between creating patented new technology and conducting philanthropic work to improve the standard of living for Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders in Hawaii. 

His hands, calloused like a craftsman, gently grip the broad green taro leaves, and a single bead of sweat trickles down his youthful face as he turns the leaves to inspect their growth in the 75-degree spring midday sun. Like his ancestors did centuries ago, Olin Kealoha Lagon uses traditional aquaculture techniques to grow taro, a food staple of Hawaii that has nourished his people for more than 1,500 years. The volcanic soil, fertile makai (oceanside) flats, and freshwater streams from the Ko’olau Mountain range supplies the plants with the nourishment necessary to grow tall and dense on the small plot Lagon’s ancestors have farmed for hundreds of years.  

Taro, a versatile root vegetable known as kalo in the Hawaiian language, is deeply ingrained in Hawaiian culture. So much so that it is rooted in the family naming structure.  

According to oral tradition, Wākea, the sky father, and Ho’ohokukalani, who made the stars, wanted to have a child. When their first child was stillborn, they buried the body near their home. From this burial plot grew a taro plant they named Haloanaka, loosely translated as “long stock trembling.” The couple’s second child was a human boy named Haloa, from whom Native Hawaiian people are descended.

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