Waimea Homestead Farmers Market
The Waimea Homestead Farmers Market has been around on this same location for 18 years. It was started by a hui of five farm owners who have been selling their products there ever since. Nowadays there are at least 30 vendors, but the special “first Saturday of the month” market often features more than 40 vendors along with live music, which creates a festival environment.
Ken and Roen Hufford, owners of certified organic Honopua Farm in Waimea, are part of the original hui of farmers and homesteaders that founded the market. At their well attended stand you can find lettuces, spinach, salad greens, kale, chard, beets, radishes, turnips, fennel, artichokes, freshly cut herbs and other specialty vegetables. They have been growing flowers since 1978 and sell bunches of colorful flower bouquets every week.
It was Roen’s parents who started the 2,800 ft elevation flower farm growing proteas, carnations, seasonal flowers and lei flowers and foliage. Roen and Ken continued the tradition and little by little added the vegetables. Their best selling vegetables seem to be the lettuce, spinach and salad mixes.For the last 5 years, Dick Threlfall has been at the market every Saturday selling goat cheese. Dick and his wife—cheese maker Heather Threlfall—have been farming and making cheeses for 15 years and started selling them 10 years ago. Their Hawaii Island Goat Dairy in Ahualoa is nestled in a beautiful old macadamia nut orchard off Old Mamalahoa Road just above Honoka'a at an elevation of about 2,000 ft. The goats all have names are milked to music.
The cheese is marketed under their own label as plain chévre in five flavors: dill-garlic, chipotle pepper, Tocoro (manzana) pepper, guava wood-smoked pyramids, and their bestseller, macadamia nut basil pesto. Their newest offering is Gavarti, the goat milk version of Havarti. Feta is made only a few times a year when they have extra milk.When asked how they got into the goat milk and cheese business after retiring from their earlier careers, Dick replies “We lost our minds.” He continues, “It is the people who come to market and faithfully buy our cheeses every week who keep us in business!”
Matthias Seelis of Wonderful Orchids has had an obsession with plants since he was a young child, according to his mother. As a very small child he would try to climb the potted tropical ficus growing in a bay window inside his childhood house in Germany.
He has been farming in Mountain View for about 7 years and selling at this market for almost 5 years. His 1,200 ft elevation farm is mostly lava rock, but his exotic plants and orchids seem to thrive in those conditions. Of all of Matthias’ beautiful tropicals and exotics in his inventory, the Phalaenopsis orchids are his best selling plants.
“This is a great market with wonderful clientele,” he comments. “The customer base ranges all the way from South Kona, the Kohala coast into Waimea and some come from as far as Hilo. I try to sell plants for every climate on this island.”
Everett and Sandy Pang moved to the Big Island from Oahu where they farmed and owned a nursery and plant business for over 40 years. A few years ago they decided to make the move to the Big Island and left their Oahu nursery to their daughter to run. Their ESP Nursery LLC is located on the “wet side” of Waimea at the 2,800 ft elevation, where they grow ornamentals, herbs and vegetable starters for home gardens. Although they are not strictly organic, the Pangs are trying to become “greener” and more self-sustainable every year.Sandy Pang says their best selling products are their edible plants with a few ornamentals being popular. We noticed that the edible plants are potted in little containers made of plant matter that can be planted directly into the ground as-is (the containers decompose as the plant grows). The cost of these planters is a little bit more than the plastic pots, but it is one more way in which they are trying to be gentle to the environment.
If you don’t get a chance to go to the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market every Saturday, or haven’t ever experienced it, plan a trip there on the first Saturday of the month. You’ll be happily surprised at the strong community atmosphere, the great breakfasts, the entertainment, and the bounty of fresh, local, upcountry produce.
Waimea Homestead Farmers Market
Saturdays, 7 am – Noon
Location: Hwy 19 – 55 mile marker at Kuhio Hale West Hawaii Office of DHHL
Type of Market: Agricultural Products
Date started: February 1992
How Funded: Vendor fees
Cost per stall/booth: $25/wk - $35/ 1st Saturday
Growth since started
Number of vendors: Start with five, now 30-35 vendors. On the first Saturday of the month, the amount of vendors usually goes up to around 40 or more.
Diversity of products: produce, eggs, preserves, flowers, meats, baker, plants, goat cheese, massage, prepared hot meals
Vendors come from: Island wide but most are from Ahualoa to Waimea and a few from the North Kohala area.
Current Products: All but seafood
Best selling products: Vegetables (various), fruit, breakfast prepared on the spot
Products desired: Cucumbers, tropical fruits
Special events: Often live music or entertainment on the first Saturday of the month.
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.