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Hawaii’s Renaissance Man makes the world a better place

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Dec 24, 2020

Aloha ‘Aina (love of the land) has been a theme for Uncle George Kahumoku Jr. his entire life.

KAHAKULOA –George Kahumoku Jr., known all over the islands as Uncle George, is a multi-Grammy and Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning Hawaiian slack key guitar master, songwriter, touring performer, teacher, artist, storyteller, author and entrepreneur. He is originally from South Kona Kealia on the Big Island and headed Kealia Farms, where he raised coffee, ti leaf, avocados, macadamia nuts, guava, mangoes, alfalfa hay, Hawaiian herbs, teas, cattle and pigs.

A multi-talented personality, Uncle George graduated from Kamehameha Schools and won a scholarship to the Honolulu Academy of Arts. An excellent sculptor, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Oakland California College of Arts & Crafts, and earned his Master’s Degree in Education from Grand Canyon University. Alongside his inspiring music career, he is also a Maui community leader who has worked with children in numerous programs throughout the years.

Uncle George recalled, “I wholeheartedly taught art classes and a special motivation program at Lahainaluna High School for 20 years and worked with children in native language studies, farming, teaching ukulele and more. Also, I directed the inception of the Institute of Hawaiian Music at UH Maui College. My vision has always been to make a greater impact and make the world a better place.”

Recently retired from 40 years of teaching at-risk children, art, ceramics, guitar and ukulele at various private and public schools, farming, being in his blood, is now how Uncle George spends much of his time. He lives and farms at the Cliffs of Kahakuloa on Maui with his wife, Nancy.

“We are a small, sustainable farm in the West Maui Mountains,” Uncle George said. “We have mini-horses, chickens, ducks, goats and sheep, and we raise all manner of fruits and vegetables — you name it! We also feed our animals our own high-protein grains.”

In 1993, Uncle George graduated from the Hawaii State Agricultural Leadership Program, and he has won several statewide and national awards for farming. Beginning his day at 3 a.m. every morning, he uses natural indigenous Native Hawaiian planting methods. Influenced by the Hawaiian moon calendar, he incorporates lots of composting, manure and mulch.

He still mentors students, feeds the homeless and shares his seeds and mana’o with over 200 farms in Hawaii and across the globe. The plants, herbs, animals and food that he grows, sells and shares are all grown with aloha.

“My goal has always been to feed people and be sustainable,” Uncle George reflected.

“I was raised by my great grandfather, Willy Kahumoku, in the traditional Hawaiian method of mala or dry-land style of farming, using animals and fowl in an integrated, sustainable system. I was taught slack key guitar from my great grandpa, and it was passed down in our family. My great grandmother once told me that if I have a dream, and can smell it, taste it and feel it, that vision is mine. I have been blessed with the opportunity to draw on my visions through my music, teaching, farming and all the things I set my heart on.”

Uncle George also made a documentary film, “Seeds of Aloha,” sharing Hawaiian culture through his music and farming. As a renowned story-teller on and off the stage, he collaborated with longtime friend Paul Konwiser to write amusing semi-autobiographical stories, creating Volume One and Two of his book called “A Hawaiian Life.” Still performing at age 70, Uncle George hosts weekly online Zoom concerts, “Ki Ho’alu Slack Key Show, Masters of Hawaiian Music,” found at SlackKeyShow.com.

He noted, “Funds generated from the online concerts help support the musicians who have not been able to perform live shows since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Plus, the ticket sales and donations help us feed the homeless on Maui.”

At present, Patrick Dougherty, Maui Motion Pictures, is filming a series titled “Uncle George Hawai’i.”

“George Kahumoku Jr. is a unique and outstanding person, a real gem,” Dougherty said. “I have filmed many TV shows on Kauai and in California for broadcast television, but I find that Uncle George has an unusual way of touching people in a most adventurous and heartfelt way. He is deeply passionate about his farming, cooking and music. Truly a master in so many ways, he is still very humble and low-key in all that he does. People really love him. Seeing his rare and exceptional talent, I want to capture it on film and share him with the world.”

Dougherty continued, “Everyone can learn Uncle George’s farming techniques and flavorful cooking classes in a fun and fast-paced delivery that only he can do. His methods are unique and easy to replicate, since food from farm to table is fun and very appetizing. Plus, you can really save a lot of money if you learn how to grow most of the ingredients yourself, which is what we are planning to share in the video series. The farming and cooking classes will be about 20 minutes in length, and Uncle George’s incredible slack key music will be played in the background.”

The series is creating a whole new way to learn about food preparation fresh from the farm to the kitchen to the table. He will be teaching how to grow healthy organic crops and then make really tasty, healthy dishes.

Learning his special techniques from his Hawaiian ancestors, Uncle George is planning to make this knowledge available to all.

Dougherty concluded, “I am hoping to make this video series a hit for all ages island-wide and worldwide. Shows will soon be available on YouTube and other video platforms for distribution. We need to preserve Uncle George’s Hawaiian-style farming and cooking techniques for present and future generations, and video lessons are the best way to accomplish this handing down of information.”

In all his endeavors, Uncle George remains true to the Hawaiian values that are part of his life.

“I believe that we must all operate with aloha, integrity and mutual respect, treating each other the way we want to be treated,” he said.

“Some other important values for all people to live by are kala mai, to be sorry and forgive; mahalo, gratitude, being thankful for life’s blessings; akahai, kindness to be expressed with tenderness; and ahonui, patience to be expressed with perseverance. These are just a few of the traits of character that express the warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people.”

Hawaiian slack key guitarist Keola Beamer commented, “I graduated from Kamehameha School with Kahumoku Jr. Since then, music has connected us. My mom, Aunty Nona Beamer, gave Uncle George the title of ‘Hawaii’s Renaissance Man’ because of his bountiful gifts. Knowing him over these many years, I am constantly amazed at his unstoppable energy. His ability to channel that mana of creativity and storytelling into his art, and the special motivation classes he used to teach at Lahainaluna High School, his farming, art, music, and so much more, has always impressed me. That sure feels like renaissance to me!”