Harvest! Puna Makai Locavore Store
There is a new storefront on the boardwalk in Old Pahoa Town. You can find it tucked in between Paolo's Italian Restaurant and Mike's Pizza, almost right across the street from Luquin's Mexican Restaurant. Harvest! Puna Makai Locavore Store opened in early August. It had been doing business for the last 13 months out of a small fruit stand in an outdoor market space just two doors from the present location.
Just a few years ago, owners Catarina and Arthur Zaragoza-Dodge started the Koa'e Farmers Collective with a booth at a local farmers market. They had only seven small-scale farmers and backyard growers. That project started the forward push that has now brought them to opening the Locavore Store.
At this time, the cooperative-style shop counts 100 different growers from all over Puna throughout the year, with at least 30 suppliers providing merchandise at any given time. The co-op members drop off whatever surplus they have available to share at the store.
Part of the "Think Local Buy Local" movement, the shop sells fresh and value-added products on consignment. From fruits and vegetables to fruit trees and garden starts, none of the goods sold are grown with harmful petroleum-based fertilizers or pesticides.
On the day of our visit we found several varieties of avocadoes, bananas and mangos; abiu, mamey sapote, white sapote, oranges, tangelos, rainbow lemons, Rangpur limes, Meyer lemons, pomelos, liliko'i, rollinia, starfruit, coconuts, fresh ginger and turmeric, tomatoes, eggplants, breadfruit, taro, ice cream beans, pumpkins, green onions, garlic leeks, kale and fresh herbs.
Other goodies, such as fresh eggs, bilimbi pickles, papaya seed dressing, fresh roasted salsas, pesto, frozen shredded coconut and salads, plus a dessert of the week, can be found in the refrigerator.
There are shelves filled with value-added products like 100% Hawaiian Cloud Forest Coffee from Hamakua, Bee bread, macadamia nuts, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, coconut flour, Big Island vanilla beans and extract; jams, jellies and preserves as well as honey, honey comb and beeswax candles. You can find tinctures and salves, whole dried cloves, powdered chili peppers and facial scrubs made from all natural products.
Then there's the locally-produced bar and liquid soap -- made with macadamia and coconut oils and glycerin made from macadamias. They come either unscented or lavender scented, with more scents to come. A concentrated version for laundry and cleaning will also be ready soon.
Cups of freshly brewed coffee can be purchased while shopping, and soon smoothies made from fresh produce will be available. New produce and products come in seasonally.
During a recent visit, this is what Catarina had to share:
"We began this project 3 years ago as an answer to some friends and neighbors' predicament of having too much food growing on their land. These mostly small-scale, subsistence-style farmers were feeding their families and neighbors, but still ended up with surplus food. We took on the task of pick-ups and transportation to get their goods to local farmers' markets, where we also set-up and ran a booth featuring the abundance of all our neighbors. This was all done on consignment, much like it is now. Everyone sent their surplus, we sold as much as we could to the larger community, the growers got to stay home and grow, and we all made a little money by combining our time and skills.
"We are thrilled to be able to offer this service 5 days a week and on a much bigger scale! We take all those hidden, edible gems, tucked away down miles of dirt road and behind acres of jungle and make them available for you in one convenient location! By shopping with us you directly support a myriad of growers and their families. No 4x4 or special permission needed, just come and enjoy.
"We're very proud to represent so many growers. We have learned and been given so much through our community, this is our way of giving back."
Harvest! Puna Makai, The Locavore Store
Catarina & Arthur Zaragoza-Dodge
15-2945 Pahoa Village Rd - Pahoa, HI 96778
Mon-Friday 9 am - 5 pm – EBT/SNAP and credit cards accepted.
Sonia R. 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 regular contributor to Ke Ola Magazine; and has her own food & garden blog at www.soniatasteshawaii.com.