We love having our very own Hāmākua Harvest Farmers’ Market. It’s like a mini-festival every Sunday with live music, educational presentations (this week we could learn to make kim chi and sauerkraut), activities for keiki like their own garden, even the occasional free kitty. Picnic tables sit under large awnings and you can talk story with friends in the shade, sharing food cooked right on the spot.
And now another innovation. They are encouraging you and me to bring our home-grown harvests to the market without the hassle of renting a spot and standing there all day to sell a little kale and eggplant. We can bring our produce directly to Shawn from Pali Kai Farm, set up at the Hāmākua Agricultural Cooperative’s booth, and leave the goodies with him. He sells it for us and gets 20% of the sales. If anything is left over at the end of the day you can either come back to get it or Shawn will take care of donating the remainder to a local food pantry. Brilliant!
I love this idea. I am abundantly blessed with avocados in summer. Even with giving away copious numbers to friends and strangers (I actually walk around town and give avos away), many spoil every week.
And in the winter, I have starfruit coming out of my ears. This innovation is a fantastic way to ensure that food doesn’t go to waste on the island. So recently, I brought batches of starfruit to the market. I made a whole $6 the first week and $9.50 the second, which I promptly spent on fresh lettuce, non-GMO papaya and other produce.
I now have a first-hand taste of how hard it is to be a farmer. My first task was to harvest the starfruit. Unfortunately I had let cast-iron plants grow up shoulder-height around the tree. It was treacherous just to get to the fruit. I could not see what I was walking into, stumbled and nearly fell. What the hell was in that jungle besides crab spiders?
So I had Steve pull out the cast-iron plants and discovered a hidden rock border. I must have tripped on the rocks. (Also out-a there!)
This week, I realized I would need a ladder to harvest the ripe starfruit, because I had already picked all the easy ones. Of course, just to make things interesting, it was raining on-and-off, though the sun was shining by the time I got to the market. Shoot. I should have picked them on Saturday.
Then there’s the decision on how many and which ones to harvest. If I don’t take them, will they be over-ripe by the next week? Would customers prefer them green so they can ripen during the week?
I complicated my decision-making the second week by also bringing ulu (breadfruit). Will they sell? I hope so – ulu is dang heavy to deliver, and sticky. I’ve been putting the ones that fall during the week in the fridge. My family is complaining about the amount of space they take up. But harvesting them from the tree has its own difficulties. I think I need to hire someone in the off-season to trim it. And how do I price these?
Of course, we can’t undercut the other farmers at the market, nor would I want to do that. It’s a privilege for the community to have them show up week after week, sun or rain. We’ve even been lucky enough to welcome additional vendors.
One is Maxwell Farms with Marian and Jeremiah. They sell Luscious Leaves, a fish and sugarcane soil amendment that you apply to plant leaves or the soil. They make it on their farm. It’s made of left-over fish carcasses from the fresh fish market down in Kawaihae. Talk about a labor of love. Imagine the drive home with that cargo! I bought it for the new tangerine and lime trees I purchased a couple months ago from Michael at the Elemental Plants booth. The tags say I’m supposed to be feeding these little trees every 4-8 weeks. Oops.
Speaking of fish, another vendor, Real Fresh Cookin, is selling smoked ahi and marlin. We chatted awhile about smokehouses. My grandfather built one and used it in his yard in Manitowoc for decades (late ‘20s to ‘60s). When he smoked the fish he caught off the Lake Michigan pier, the neighbors complained, but there were no ordinances against that back then. Ed is out in Kalopa, but he gets complaints too. He makes smoked jerky, nuggets and sticks from whatever fish are in season, and sauces, too: Pepper Sauce, Lilikoi Pepper, Mango Pepper, Papaya Pepper, and Smoked Garlic Pepper Sauce. I bought smoked ahi sticks and sliced it into salads all week. He also gave me a recipe for a dip with the smoked fish and sauce that I’m inspired to try.
The Hawaiian Grown Flavors booth isn’t new but some of their products are. Diane is experi-menting with cooking, pureeing and drying ulu to make non-fried chips. I really liked them. Last week she asked people to taste two new variations: rosemary and basil. I voted for the rosemary ulu chips – even better than plain. This week they introduced the winner – a bag with both!
The Palani Bakery booth has a wonderful selection of gluten-free (Yeah!) and traditional bakery. (Shhh – the gluten free really tastes great! You could pass it off for regular.) It’s so good that Tammy is even wholesaling her bakery to all three Island Naturals shops, Island Gourmet, local coffee shops and KTA (who rebrands it under their Mountain Apple Brand).
And then there’s Charlie, who gets up at 3 am on Sunday to make genuine New York bagels, boiled before baking. He’s from Brooklyn, even had a restaurant there for many years. He also sells a flourless double chocolate fudge cake, containing four cups of espresso made from his own coffee beans. Everything he sells is vegan. But get here early. Twelve dozen bagels are usually gone by 11 am. For his real job, Charlie performs aerial dance with a single point trapeze. You meet all kinds on the Big Island.
So come to the Hāmākua Harvest Farmer’s Market on Sunday, 9 am – 2 pm, and support our farmers. Uh, that would be me, too. Need ulu? How about starfruit? And I’m thinking about bringing coconuts if I can figure out how to get them down from my trees. Yup, call me Farmer Di.
PS. Please support the efforts of Hāmākua Harvest with their crowd fund raiser on Generosity.
See these other blog posts about Hāmākua Harvest:
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