Keaukaha-Pana’ewa Farmers Market
The newest farmers market on our island is the Keaukaha-Pana’ewa Farmers Market. It opened its doors on September 10, 2011 on one acre off Railroad Avenue across from Home Depot in Hilo. The market is open every Saturday from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. From a starting number of 13 vendors, the market already houses 31 vendors leaving only 8 booth spots available.
The Keaukaha-Pana’ewa Farmers Association’s mission statement and aim is “To support, motivate and educate Keaukaha-Pana’ewa agricultural lessees to establish a viable, sustainable farm community, preserve Hawaiian culture, achieve self sufficiency, strengthen pono management and respect for the ‘aina.” In keeping with the mission statement, the market is open to Hawaiian farmers and producers who lease Hawaiian Homelands, and to other entrepreneurs. The range of products runs from locally grown produce, baked goods, poi, fish, plants, value added food products and a few ready-to-eat food vendors.
Plans for the near future include entertainment, demonstrations, and a covered seating area for visitors to sit while eating a bite and enjoying the music. There is plenty of parking available.
The market was the decade-long dream of Milnor Lum, the Association’s Farmers Market Committee chairman, and it took a couple of years of planning to bring it to reality. Included in the Association’s long-term planning are a processing plant to make value added food products, as well as a learning center and computer lab. The goal is to better serve the area’s youth in learning farming and computer skills so they can create their own jobs and attain food security.
The Kohana Farms booth was overseen by Leanne Okamoto. She and partner Ian Kami run farms located in the Pana’ewa Farm Lots in Hilo and in the Nanawale Farm Lots near Pahoa. Leanne also happens to be the Executive Director of the Hawai‘i Future Farmers of America Foundation
Leanne’s experience in growing plants started as a small child working at her parents’ Ho‘onanea Orchid Nursery in Pahoa, and later helping on different family farms with grandparents and relatives, all farmers in the Pahoa area. She and Ian have been farming for a year on their own Kohana Farms, land owned by Ian’s grandparents which had been left fallow for the previous ten years and had reverted back to rainforest before they acquired it. They hand cleared it and now have an acre for food production, planning to add more with time.
Although not certified organic, Leanne and Ian have been practicing Master Cho’s Korean Natural Farming techniques and also taking advantage of the forest mulch accumulated over the years. The base soil is rock from very old lava flows and the Natural Farming techniques used are helping to build up and soften the soil. In one growing season an additional 2-3 inches of soft loamy topsoil has been created with this method of growing.
The farm produces Kabocha, gourmet and specialty squash, green beans, kalo, gourmet and specialty eggplants, soybeans, peppers, Asian vegetables, and herbs. Leanne and Ian also grow avocado, Meyer lemon, navel oranges and limes, as well as ornamental potted plants and flowers for the mixed flower bouquets sold at their booth. Best selling items so far are green beans, purple eggplant, mixed flower bouquets, navel oranges, and bottle palms. You can read more about Leanne and the farm at http://www.whogrew.com/farm_profiles/12
Wendy Wagoner was being helped at the Da 2 Tutu’s booth by her husband Mark on the day of our visit, or let’s just say Wendy was selling while Mark entertained us. Over 30 years ago Wendy, the daughter of a chef, started helping her own tutu to bake -- and has been baking ever since.
Wendy’s baked good assortment included white and wheat breads, banana bread, chocolate chip bread, walnut bread, chocolate brownies, peanut butter brownies, cakes, pies, rolls, cinnamon rolls, cream puffs and an assortment of cookies.
Tucked not far from the area where we parked and where we could not help but catch the delicious aroma carried by the breeze was The Barbeque Pit, operated by David Yamamoto and Jerry Sayaboc. Here Southern Style BBQ can be found on this speck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I was immediately transported to South Carolina where I lived for so many years and, of course, I had to stop to pick up lunch.
David was cooking and serving delicious portions of succulent and juicy half chickens as well as pulled pork for huge sandwiches. According to David, the half chickens seem to be his best selling item. I can tell you they are good! David commented that although the market is new and not many people have found them yet, he expects it to grow soon.
Jerryl Mauhili and Gail Cowpland‘s booth is one of the largest in this market, taking up two regular spaces and overflowing with bins of fruit and vegetables. The produce is all locally grown at their two farms: Ikaika O Kalani Farms is located in the Pana’ewa Ag Park, and Wailele O Akaka Botanical Garden & Farms in the Honomu Ag Lots. Jerryl is a former president of the Keaukaha-Panaewa Community Association.
The 5 acre Pana’ewa leased farm location is just a couple of hundred feet above sea level and composed mostly of both a’a and pahoehoe lava; the 165 acres leased at the Honomu farm, adjoining Akaka Falls State Park, varies between 700 and 1000 feet elevation, has deep soil, and was used formerly for sugar cane growing. Previously using petroleum based fertilizers, the farms are transitioning to Natural Farming Methods and (IMO) practices to build healthy soils that can support vigorous and sustainable plant stocks.
Current production include sweet potatoes (u’ala), ginger root, taro (kalo), bread fruit (‘ulu), bananas (mai’a), tapioca (casava), citrus, coconuts (niu), kukui nut, mountain apples, poha berries, and passion lilikoi. Jerryl and Gail also sell cabbage, bok choy, dragon fruit and many other fruits and vegetables.
Jerryl is a third generation Hawaiian Homestead lessee and one of his main interests is to promote native Hawaiian culture and knowledge. His hopes and dreams are many and long-ranged including Eco-Agricultural Villages, Eco-Tourism programs and a Botanical Garden with “Tea House as a focal point where all can come to talk story and share as we drink our favorite cup of coffee, tea, and tropical beverage.”
Jerryl continues: “Our vision is to develop a working farm cooperative of intercultural partnerships that will assist Native Hawaiian agriculturalists to learn and implement successful farm operations. Our mission statement is to encourage Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs to enter mainstream marketing and accomplish sustainable incomes that will provide for family generations to come.”
The Keaukaha-Pana’ewa Farmers Market might be new, but it is growing fast and is full of energy. Its enterprising vendors not only have a vision, but also are hard workers who know how to make their visions come true.
Keaukaha – Pana’ewa Farmer's Market
Saturdays 7:30 am to – 4 pm
Location: Railroad Avenue across from Home Depot, Hilo
Sponsoring organization: Keaukaha – Pana’ewa Farmers Association – Mele Spencer, President; Milnor Lum Chairman
Type of Market: Open to Hawaiian farmers and producers
Date started: September 10th, 1011
How Funded: Grants and memberships; booth revenues
Cost per stall/booth: $15 for a 10 x 10 space
Growth since started:
a. Number of vendors: Started with 13 vendors and a month later had 31. There are 39 total booth spaces
b. Diversity of products: Locally grown vegetables, fruit, plants, baked goods, food items, jams, jellies, fish, poi, Hawaiian crafts and other agricultural products
Geographical range of vendors: Although started to help the Keaukaha and Pana’ewa residents, vendors from all other areas are encouraged
a. Range of products: At the moment, fruits and veggies, plants, baked goods; hydroponics veggies and catfish; jams and jellies and a few ready-to-eat food vendors.
Other special features: Cultural art and crafts lacking but planned for near future. A learning center and computer lab as well as a processing plant are in the planning to give our youth a chance to learn computer knowledge as well as how to make value added food products.
Sonia Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka’a. She is a contributing writer for Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine and has her own food & garden blog at soniatasteshawaii.com