We are delighted to have our own Farmer’s Market in Honoka‘a. (See Hāmākua Harvest – One Man’s Vision.) Yes, we can drive 17 miles to Waimea where they have three markets on Saturday. But I can choose to come more often to the Hāmākua Harvest Farmer’s Market just one mile and three blocks from my house, and really get to know these farmers. I took that opportunity at the opening on Sunday, where I noticed a special feel about this farmer’s market.
Maybe it was the blessing. On the mainland it’s tricky, even illegal, to conduct a public prayer. But this is Hawai‘i and we enjoy exemptions to mainland rules to help preserve the native culture. Lanakila Mangauil urged us to plant our intentions for the success of the Farmer’s Market and we chanted.
Maybe it was the live music, creating a festival atmosphere. The fresh gelato was also definitely festive, though by the time I made my way around the circle of vendors, it was GONE! This Sunday I will start with the gelato.
The market offered vegetables, papaya, avocados, macadamia nuts, bananas (so many bananas!) and lots more, including plants. Personally, I’m not planting anything in my yard unless it is food. I’ve been preparing holes for lemon and lime trees – can’t wait to talk to Michael Gibson about that, this coming Sunday. He was very busy last week with the opening and with his own business.
The market has two honey vendors. Shannon of BEEing Aloha, is a long-time bee educator and bee rescuer (see The bounty of the Big Island, endangered). Besides honey, you can buy bee pollen, candles, lip balm and other bee products from her. I’ve known her a long time through Third Thursday Thrive, her support of the Hamakua Youth Foundation and as a buyer of her honey at the Waimea market.
I guess I never really thought about it, but the folks at Aha Honey House http://www.ahahoney.com/ explained that they move their hives to different locations to achieve different flavored honeys. They also patiently described their honey-making process that gets honey to crystallize smooth, a real trick with their premier kiawe honey. Stbon and Donelle also offered yummy samples. Samples are always good.
I am sure I’ll be spending lots of time at Alma’s vegetable stand where I bought corn on the cob, kale, and tomatoes. And she offered something special for the opening: Filipino Banana Lumpia (think fried spring rolls with brown sugar sprinkled bananas inside instead of vegetables) and Banana Cue (fried bananas skewered on a stick after frying). Using the local cooking bananas for both, she fried them in coconut oil, fresh on site! Both are typical street food in the Philippines. I just had to have one.
I loved the scents of the pretty soaps from the Big Island Soap Company. They use only essential oils for their fragrances, and natural colors from things like turmeric, clay, cacao powder, coffee grounds, pine tar and poppy seeds. My favorite was the lavender.
You never know what you will find at a Hawaiian farmer’s market and this one was no different. Janis, owner of Honokaa Jewelers was selling avocados, bananas, squash, trees, very large aloe leaves, hand-carved koa canes, and a few select pieces of beautiful hand-made jewelry: everything from a dollar to $2000.
In chatting, she explained that she scrapes an aloe every morning to make juice (“Does it taste good?” “No. But it’s good for me.”) The rest she uses on her hands and face, and for burns. Janis got the shells to make the necklace from Kawaihae, just across the northern part of the island, trading for them with a friend who lives there.
The folk at Sea Dandelion Café showed up with their crunchy Vegan Poke (made with King Oyster Alii Hamakua Mushrooms and Sea Asparagus instead of raw fish), fresh ‘awa, hot and iced chocolaTea, coconuts, blueberries and Suelang’s crystal healing jewelry. Love these folk; they are doing so much for our community. (See my recent blog that talks about their Ecstatic Dances raising money for local non-profits.)
Kawaiikalia Akua Farm folk also had a booth. Alex was very excited that people could use SNAP/EBT to purchase seeds and plants, not only food: “teach a man to fish” and all that. The young men on the farm have a mission based around community involvement, reducing food waste, and sharing local and organic food. They recently spoke at Third Thursday Thrive at our gathering on the Gift Economy.
The folk at the Hawaiian Grown Flavors booth helped with my questions about growing lilikoi, my most recent plant-growing experiment. They offer dried pineapple, papaya, apple bananas, and coconut pieces as well as fruit roll-ups. They dry the fruit in their certified kitchen and package it themselves. About half of what they offer is grown on their six-acre farm on the Hāmākua coast, the rest from local farmers.
I loved the samples at the goat cheese tent. I got the last little taste of Hamakua cheese; unfortunately they were out. So I bought the colby, also very good. I had to enforce a strict limit for my family on the cheese I bought or it would have been gone by the next day. I met the owner of the Hawaii Island Goat Dairy, Dick, and his intern, Michelle, who is learning all about goat farming, soup to nuts (or better said, from breeding and kidding to cheesmaking and selling).
So many interesting vendors, and I didn’t even get to the on-site food vendors and the macadamia nut folk before I felt a sunburn coming on and had to leave.
But I still wondered about the market’s special feel. Maybe it’s because of its Education Tent, full of kids learning to make compostable paper pots and planting seeds, and later, adults learned about vermi-composting. This week Shannon of BEEing Aloha will give a talk about the importance of bees and what we can do to protect them without the use of pesticides.
Or maybe that special feel is because I lingered with the vendors. I found them so open to answering my questions and having a real conversation. And then it hit me. This market is special because these are my farmers. I know these folks or I made an effort to get to know them on Sunday.
Get to know your farmer. Talk with them. Do more than just buying your veggies.
Postscript: Hāmākua Harvest provides a vibrant community gathering place and a unique organization that will be offering many more components beyond the Farmer’s Market. See their website to learn about:
Thank you to Sarah Anderson for the use of some of her pictures.
Other essays related to Big Islanders’ relationship with food:
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