Welcome to Hawai'i Homegrown!
Building local, sustainable food communities on Hawai'i Island
• Find others for buying, selling, sharing, and learning | Farmers Markets
• Empower yourself and your community to become food self-reliant | Reports
• Learn about events, resources, happenings, and locally grown food | Events
• Keep yourself informed through our monthly newsletter | Newsletter archive
It's all free and abundant, so dig in!
Persevere through challenges: Roy Y. Honda Farm
Roy Honda, Farmer
Roy Y. Honda Farm, Captain Cook, South Kona
Roy Honda started farming in 1997, specializing in oriental varieties of tomato and cucumber. He is best known for a tomato variety he grows that is a favorite in Japan. Originally he grew this variety to satisfy consumer demand in the Hawai‘i market, and now it has become his signature crop. Other crops include bitter melon, lettuce, squash, papaya, beans, and myoga (edible ginger flower).
Honda sells his produce to wholesalers, grocery stores, health food stores, restaurants, and at a local farmers market. At the farmers market he can sell at retail, whereas selling to wholesaler venues provides a smaller return. “There is a limit to how much an account buys, so by selling to many accounts I can sell more and get a higher total return,” says Honda in justifying his marketing plan. Even though the profit margin is much smaller for wholesalers as compared with direct retail sales at the farmers market or to restaurants, selling to wholesalers is necessary for times when production is high. In order to keep wholesalers happy, Honda communicates and sells consistently to them throughout the year. This marketing relationship provides flexibility to move produce to other markets. On average Honda sells 50% of his crop directly to consumers and the rest at wholesale.
As with diversifying his markets, Honda has a similar philosophy about diversifying his crops. “If you have a set number of items, then there is a threshold of how much you can sell of any one item. For example, there are only so many tomatoes you can sell. With multiple products, each has a threshold and the total value can be much higher.” Through the years, Honda has expanded the number of crops he grows, which has particularly paid off at the farmers market.
Farming has not always been profitable for Honda, with ups and downs through the years. Twice he sustained large losses that nearly brought down his business. Once a big competitor dropped his tomato price far below production cost, driving many greenhouse tomato farmers out of business, and forcing Honda to borrow money for materials and production costs. On another occasion, he used a commercial fungicide that was contaminated with herbicide, causing him to lose his crops. At that time he had an alternative source of income—macadamia nuts—that covered his basic overhead costs as he persevered through the challenging set back and carried him through months of lost income from tomatoes.
You can visit Roy Honda's farm outlet every Saturday at the Keauhou Farmers Market.
This interview was excerpted with kind permission of the authors from:
Elevitch, C., N. Milne, and J. Cain. 2012. Hawai‘i Island Farmer’s Guide to Accessing Local Markets. Hawai‘i Community College Office of Continuing Education and Training, Center for Agricultural Success, and Permanent Agriculture Resources. http://hawaiihomegrown.net/pdfs/Hawaii-Island-Guide-to-Accessing-Markets.pdf