State Closes Laulima Farm Cafe in Kipahulu While Hawaii Unemployment Numbers Look Bad

Saw a depressing Facebook post from my friend Katie McMillian (TEDx Maui) this week: “Tragic news from Kipahulu. The Dept. of Health will not continue to allow the Laulima Farm’s fruit stand to serve any prepared foods… meaning their bicycle peddled smoothies, fresh picked garden salads, and coconut milk lattes!!! Wow, this is one of the rare places on earth where you could experience the true meaning of fresh. Makes no sense that they would approve a tripple fried corn dog stand at the Co. Fair but not this.”

That the post generated 56 comments in seven hours tells me that you people really, Really, REALLY enjoyed the quaint country simplicity that made Laulima Farm such a wonderful little spot in Kipahulu. But hey—Laulima Farms apparently never applied for a permit from the Hawaii Health Department to serve food, so on Aug. 9 the department closed down the cafe.

“They don’t have a food establishment permit,” said Patti Kitkowski, an official with Health Department’s Maui office. “They were selling smoothies. They were also using catchment water, which is not approved. Everything they were doing was not approved. They can sell whole fruit, but they cannot sell baked goods or cut fruit.”

Kitkowski said the department was tipped off by a complaint. This is odd—Laulima Farm has been selling smoothies made from their bicycle-powered blender for years (indeed, Mauitime put the blender on the cover back in 2004).

Beth Rings with the farm denies Laulima uses catchment water. “We use spring filtered water,” she said. As for Josh Stearn, the farm’s owner, he places the blame for the whole thing on himself.

“We never got a permit,” he told me on Aug. 22. “It’s really our own problem. I don’t blame them [the Health Department]. We were never legally supposed to be serving coffee.”
Stearn said that farm will now shift to just an ag stand. He said he will not apply for a food establishment permit.

“There’s a certified kitchen just across the street, in case people want food,” he said. “I’m happy about it. It means less work.”

It’s not quite as sexy as the announcement this week that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will be launching a porn website that juxtaposes full-on sex with animal abuse (please note: I’m saying the actual announcement is sexy in a journalistic sense, not that the proposed site is sexy in a, well, sexy sense, which actually strikes me as weird and creepy), but the news from the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Hawaii in July was 6.1 percent certainly made me stand up and take notice.

This is great news, right? I mean, 6.1 percent is minuscule when compared to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the nation in July of 9.1 percent. And it is great, though when you start to break down the state unemployment figure to its component counties and even islands, then things start to get complicated—and depressing.

Unfortunately, official figures for Hawaii’s counties and islands are not seasonally adjusted (“seasonal adjustment” is a statistical technique used by economists to factor in seasonal fluctuations into unemployment rate calculations, so that economists can more easily compare data from, say, the busy tourist month of July to the typically slower January). Still, the numbers seem to indicate that portions of Hawaii are still struggling with joblessness.

Maui County’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July was 7.5 percent, worse than Honolulu’s 5.4 percent but way better than Kauai County’s 8.5 percent and Hawaii County’s 9.5 percent. When you further break down Maui County’s numbers, the island of Maui comes in at 7.3 percent (again, not seasonally adjusted), which is worse than Lanai’s more than respectable 5.3 percent but absolute paradise when compared to Molokai’s intolerable 14.7 percent.

Even with seasonal adjustment, there’s no doubt that the situation on Molokai is an economic disaster. Molokai Ranch closed in 2008, and things apparently only got worse from there. Since then unemployment rates have bounced between 12 and 15 percent. If anybody who currently holds public office or would like to in the near future has any ideas on what to do about this (non-porn/animal abuse-related only, please), now would be a great time to speak up.

Well, I’ve gone and finally gotten my novel published. It’s called Small Island, and it’s an old-timey noirish tale of intrigue, violence and sex set on contemporary Maui.

I actually wrote the novel back in 2008, immediately after I resigned from MauiTime but when I was still living on island. I wrote it, edited it, showed it to some people, edited it more, queried some agents, became frustrated (my favorite criticism was that the story wasn’t enough like Magnum, PI) and eventually just put it away.

Then not long after I returned to Maui and to the MauiTime editor’s office (mid-June 2011), I received a press release from Event Horizon Press, a small book publisher located in Palm Springs, California, asking for action/adventure manuscripts that could become ebooks. It was just a general release, not even addressed to me personally. But I remembered my manuscript and impulsively sent it off.

Joseph and Barbora Cowles, the publisher and owner, respectively, both read it and loved it. E-versions of the novel are now available for sale at the low, low price of $3.99 at and A trade paperback version is in the works, and should be available for sale in late October or early November.