Two of the most important and symbolic words in the Hawaiian vocabulary kalo and ohana, the words for taro and family can be used to describe the main focus of life in Waipio Valley. It is significant that the words are related in terms of language and legend. Kalo reproduces by means of underground sprouts, or oha, which are broken off the parent corm for planting. The word ohana itself is composed of the word oha and the suffix na, and so literally means off-shoots or "that which is composed of off-shoots"; by extension, then, it means "the off-shoots of a family stock" (Handy and Pukui 1972:3).
The fertile flats are fed through streams throughout the the valley andlo'i kalo (wetland taro fields) are abundant as they have been in cultivation since ancient times. Native Hawaiian farmers still use traditional methods extending back many generations to farm the taro here. The lo'i kalo provide a rich ecosystem that supports native plants and animals including pinao (Hawaiian dragonfly), 'auku'u (black-crowned night heron), and 'o'opu (goby fish).