I was introduced to Michael Gibson within six months of living here. He was speaking at a Third Thursday Thrive gathering about his vision for a community-based Farmer’s Market that would celebrate the Hāmākua Coast’s rich agricultural heritage.
But this would be so much more than a place to buy vegetables. He saw a place where people could learn about sustainable, organic, and native agriculture, a place with demonstration gardens, a fruit tree orchard, a place where area youth could work and learn by doing; in short, everything from planting to composting. It would also teach local farmers how to increase the value of their products and sell these value-added products. It would be a community gathering place that would knit people together, and help local farmers actually make a living with their farms. It was a big vision, one he’s held for 20-25 years, and he spoke about it from the heart. It was a vision based on small diverse farms, not large mono-culture plantations, a welcome vision to the more than 400 families left unemployed after the last sugar cane plantation failed in 1993. I became a believer. But it would be three years before it started materializing.
Meanwhile we saw Michael at the Waimea Farmer’s Markets selling plants and trees with his business, Elemental Plants, and offering planting advice freely.
He continued to work his vision, putting together his business plan that drew praise from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
Now he needed a Hāmākua Coast location. By 2014 a site was proposed in Honoka‘a’s backyard at the intersection of Highways 19 and 240 (Mamane Street) and Michael was able to secure a 30-acre lease from Kamehameha Schools. By April of this year, he and Hāmākua Harvest Administrative Director, Lori Beach, hired two Farmer’s Market Managers, Julia Meurice and Liza Franzoni, and ground-breaking started on May 20.
- Mālama ʻĀina – To care for and nurture the land so it can give back all we need to sustain life for ourselves and our future generations,
- Kaiāulu– Community,
- Naʻauao – Knowledge sharing,
- Holo leʻa – To be successful and to assist others in their success.
Now the first piece falls into place: the Farmer’ Market component of the plan for Hāmākua Harvest opens on Sunday, September 6, 9 am to 2 pm. Enjoy music, classes for keiki and adults, and 20 vendors featuring locally grown and made products, accepting EBT.
One man’s powerful vision seems destined to come true, just as he imagined it.
Come, and share the vision.
To see the first fruits of Michael’s vision, read Hāmākua Harvest – these are my farmers, and my own involvement, see Call me Farmer Di. For a two year update, see Hāmākua Harvest’s 2nd Annual Farm Festival – see the progress.
Thank you to Sarah Anderson for sharing her photography of the blessing ceremony.
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