For lots of reasons I haven’t been to Waimea for the Saturday Farmer’s Market this summer. I finally went, and had a great time seeing my favorite vendors and buying their organic produce. A few of these folks very ethically tell me that they are not organic certified, as it’s expensive to get the certification. But they follow organic practices. I trust them. I’ve been buying from them almost two years now.
There are two markets in Waimea on Saturday. This day I went to the one at Parker School. They often have a band playing. When I arrived, the guys were singing Under The Boardwalk and I joined right in, thinking this is about as far away from the boardwalk as you can get and still be in the States.
I went straight to the vendor who sells lamb – I had a craving. My flexitarian diet doesn’t include red meat, but as a line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding says, “You don’t eat meat? That’s okay, I make lamb.” All they had left was lamb riblets, which I’ve never made, but what the heck, I’m willing to learn. The vendor, Jan, also raises sheep for wool. Under the name of Hawaiian Homegrown Wool Co., she spins the wool into skeins and knits finished goods for sale, as well as selling frozen lamb and quail eggs.
Many vendors sell prepared food, so the air is filled with the smells of Thai, Mexican and breakfast foods and happy people eating at the picnic tables in the middle of the market. The market always feels festive, with people hula hooping, making bubbles, talking story and eating.
The farmer I visit on Tuesdays at his farm was doing a brisk business. His booth is always busy and with good reason. Kekela Farms are especially known for their greens, but they have a very wide assortment of veggies. This week I was searching for, and found, purple cabbage. A friend made an interesting salad with it for a party, and I’m going to try to reproduce it.
I also love their kohlrabies, my favorite vegetable (it’s a Czech thing). It seems no one else around here knows what they are! I bought five.
For tomatoes I go to the stand of the Hawaiian B Natural Farms, whose sole offering at the market today is tomatoes, though they also grow peppers on their Honoka‘a farm. Lance and Susan are from Honoka‘a, and call themselves Chief Veggie Officers – my kind of C level officer. I am grateful for their tomatoes; it’s actually not easy to grow them here.
I end my circle of stops at Shannon’s Beeing Aloha Honey tent. She had four kinds of raw honey to taste, all different based on the flowers that the bees were visiting. This week she had lehua, lehua/coffee, eucalyptus, and macadamia nut. I bought the blend.
She only sells her honeys at the Farmer’s Market because her passion is to speak with people about bees to bring awareness to their struggles. So she chooses to sell one jar at a time, talking with each person. She brings an observation hive to give people an inside look at the workings of the bee hive.
Besides honey, Shannon also offers bee removal, equipment and education. She takes her hive into local schools to talk to children about the importance of bees and pollination. She spoke at Third Thursday Thrive some time ago. Maybe it’s time to bring her back for an encore. We’ve been featuring speakers related to the GMO controversy on the Big Island and the disappearance of feral bees is linked to GMOs.
We’ve had an active anti-GMO movement on the Big Island for some time. There’s a strong connection to eating locally, healthy, and lower on the food chain. Sentiment is strong for protecting the ‘āina, the land. That’s part of living aloha. When it appeared that GMO seed producers were eyeing an expansion onto the Big Island from Kauai and Maui, Councilwoman Margaret Wille managed to turn sentiment into action. She introduced Bill 79, with this comment:
It is vital that we as an island community make a decision at this time whether to go in the direction of GMO biotech industrial production as the principal agricultural model on this island or pursue more eco-friendly diversified local farming, including organic, conventional or “natural farming”. The experience both in Europe and in Latin America is that where GMO crop production is permitted, other modes of farming are wiped out. The related food sustainability/resilience question we are addressing is not how much food we can grow but rather how much nutritious safe food we can grow — for both present and future generations.
Margaret’s all about what’s doing right, and she galvanized the little guys on this issue. Dianne and I both testified at the public hearing this summer. The county rotates county council meetings between Hilo and Kona. Besides these two locations, citizens can go to several videoconferencing facilities – no need to drive miles just to make your point.
Ordinarily, these satellite locations have a couple people observing or testifying. Even the Council chambers have had sparse attendance on the days I’ve attended in the past. But this day, Pahoa had 55 testifiers, Hilo 70, Waimea 22, Kona 83 and even Ka‘u had 12 testifiers lined up at 9 am. More testifiers came during the day, and other people came to witness: Kona’s council room was at capacity at 209 and people stood in the hallway. The testimony spilled into a second full day. And the overwhelming sentiment was to pass Bill 79, keeping GMOs from expanding here. Of 276 presenters, 223 were against GMOs.
The council also received written testimonies with over 1000 supporting Bill 79 and around 100 against it. The biggest local group against the bill appeared to be the Big Island’s papaya growers who already have a sizable GMO crop. But papaya is exempt under Bill 79. Of course the GMO producers had their representatives as well.
Dianne’s testimony focused on the fact that more than 35 countries world-wide have banned or restricted the import, distribution, sale, field trials and/or commercial planting of GMO crops. Those governments were clearly listening to the will of their people. The implication for us is that there’s a big market out there for non-GMO produce. Being an island, we have a unique opportunity to supply and guarantee non-GMO food because if we don’t grow it, neighbor fields can’t accidentally be pollinated. This could turn into an economic boon to local farmers.
But the biggest reason to ban GMO crops came from Edie, the owner of the Honoka‘a Taro Patch Gift Shop and a local organic farmer. In her testimony, she reminded us of our state motto: Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina I ka pono. The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. It is our kuleana, our responsibility to take care of this land.
If we do take care of the ‘āina, we will have the bounty of Farmer’s Markets like this one to enjoy for the next seven generations. And I’ll be able to buy nutritious locally-produced food for the rest of my life. Combined with enjoying my own avocados and the shared bounty of friends, I’ll be eating well.
(For further information on the Big Island’s anti-GMO legislation, see these other posts on this blog: The will of the people; Responsibility for the ‘āina is personal; Does all GMO = predatory farming?; and It’s my kuleana to act…again and WOO-HOO…I think.)
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