Growing People

Youth empowerment and transformation on an organic farm in Hawaii
Year Released
Film Length(s)
18 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL


Featured review

Remarkable, moving film that beautifully illustrates how three sisters grow through their experience of farming. Ms. Forsberg's approach to use the sisters' narrative to tell the story and expose their true heart and soul is brilliant. The film relates to life lessons on many levels from empowerment through leadership and education to family connections and a healthy lifestyle. Highly recommended for the K-12 classroom (and beyond)".
Debbie Millikan
Ph.D. Sustainability Director, 'Iolani School


MA`O Organic Farms, in the historically marginalized rural community of Wai`anae, O`ahu, is the site of a groundbreaking youth leadership program that has impacted the lives of hundreds of Hawaiian youth. This 18-minute film provides an intimate look at the MA`O program through the stories of three of these youth, the sisters Miki, U`ilani and Sheila Arasato. While the struggles identified by each of them differ — low expectations, minimal healthy food options, negative stereotypes weighing down their community — each of the sisters finds at MA`O the tools to work toward a future that is personally, environmentally, and socially sustainable.

In an area with one of the largest populations of Native Hawaiians in the state, and yet burdened with high rates of unemployment, and low numbers of college graduates, the organic farming program at MA`O offers the Arasatos a link back to their cultural heritage, educating them and their peers about pre-colonial Hawaiian food practices. Simultaneously, the program supports them to lean forward into their own futures, as it provides financial support toward college. Throughout the film, we watch three young women becoming empowered young leaders, transforming their own visions of what their lives can be.


This beautiful, engaging film celebrates the significance of caring for the land through cultivating food and growing communities.
Nancy Chen
Anthropology Department University of California Santa Cruz
Growing People spins a true-life tale where cliches usually dominate: healthy food, at-risk adolescents, indigenous health issues. When a Hawaiian organic farm figures out how to mix education and wage labor together, its inspiring program changes a family forever. Oh, and there's singing, too.
B. Ruby Rich
Film Quarterly

Awards and Screenings

Double Exposure, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, Denver CO, 2017
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, 2014
Hawaii International Film Festival, 2013
Winner, Best Short Documentary, Santa Cruz Film Festival, 2013

Director Commentary

As a filmmaker and former resident of Hawai`i, I am interested in the connections between individual health, economic, community development, and sustainable food production.

With Growing People, my aim was to shine a light on the youth empowerment work of MA`O Organic Farms through the personal stories of some of the young people working there. I believe passionately in the power of young adults to overcome negative stereotypes, and health and economic challenges, whenever they are given the support and encouragement each of us deserves.

During my 12 years in Oahu, I saw young people from lower-income communities like Wai`anae struggle to overcome stereotypes about what they were capable of. And at MA`O, I saw these same young people not only becoming, often, the first in their families to attend college, but transforming their own conceptions of who they were — from marginalized youth to empowered young leaders.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning
  • Subtitles
  • Resources for Educators

Film/Audio Languages

  • English

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English
  • Spanish

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Resources for Educators

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