Everyone in the restaurant industry is talking about locavore dining but how can we move this initiative into our own kitchens? Finding fresh Maui grown fruits and vegetables can get tricky since not all places you buy these products from label their origins.
Enter Lipoa Street Farmers Market (LSFM), a new venture launched in July that sells only Maui grown Maui made products to the consumer public of Maui. Every Saturday morning from 8 am to 12 pm this market offers only fruits and veggies actually grown on island, LSFM offers fruits and veggies from our fertile island gardens, and each farmer or vendor has them clearly marked.
I had to learn the hard way that not all farmers markets are created equal. Just because they have the word “farmers” in the title doesn’t mean the farms in question are on-island or even in the state. If you’re not sure, and it’s not labeled, you can always ask. Another way to tell if you’re really buying local is the nature of the food that’s for sale; you won’t find out-of-season produce at a true farmers market. If the mango is not in season here, then chances are you are not buying a Maui mango if it is available.
Under the warm Saturday sun of South Maui on Lipoa Street these farmers and vendors gather to sell their fresh grown and maui made products and produce. I met a vivacious and enthusiastic entrepreneur from Hana, Joei Tyre and her husband Nick. They have formed a niche business within the Lipoa Street Farmers’ Market, called Hana Express, (808 248-8469). On Fridays they run all around the Hana area picking up fresh fruits and vegetables from those individuals that would like to sell them at the LSFM. Then on Saturday they display and sell the goods for those individuals. Joie and Nick have also formed the Maka’i Ola Bakery that makes gluten free, wheat free and egg free products for sale at LSFM. The Saturday I was there they had brownies, foccacia, and cobblers, but the selection changes every week.
The LSFM also has a drop-stand program that is a venue for those with extra produce and flowers from back yard and small gardens to drop off their pre-priced items for sale to the public. Fresh greens, bananas, pineapple, tomato, maui onion and asparagus were all available the morning I dropped by.
Steve, who sells the goods for Ken Okamura’s Okamura Farms, was explaining the depth of the process to keep their goods free of bugs, “I would rather sit all day picking the bugs off than spray chemicals. Its hard work work, but it creates a better product at the end of the day.” The fruits of his labor are truly a work of nature, with no pesticides found on anything on his table for sale. The prices are good too, the farmers’ keep them competitive, and they sell out of many things here. The early bird gets the worm at LSFM.
The Coca Farms table at the LSFM was impressive, herbs, greens, beets, corn, eggplant, fresh asparagus and more. Farmer Joel Gil and his family utilize seven acres to bring forth his bounty. He usually sells out of all his products. They sell organic eggs for $5 a dozen. He tells me he lost 75% of his corn to bugs, but he is committed to farming organically and never using pesticides. “Everything grows on Maui,” he said, “it’s [figuring out] what grows on Maui with no bugs that’s the key.”
With initiatives like Kanu Hawaii’s Eat Local Challenge that begins on September 26 (Kanuhawaii.com to join in or for more info), more Hawaii residents are becoming akamai about what it really means to eat local. Kanu Hawaii is challenging all of us to eat only local products for only seven days, but that means no imported goods, doable yes, difficult certainly. However the result is that more people are demanding locally made, locally grown foods, and the farmers and the markets are responding.
For more inspiration watch the documentary Ingredients about the local food movement in the Pacific Northwest, screening Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 6 pm at Whole Foods Market, to support this week’s Eat Local Challenge. I asked director Robert Bates if we had enough diversity in products grown and produced on Maui that we could have complete diets derived locally. Bates replied, “Yes we can, but i don’t think that is the point. I am an advocate of eating fresh food that comes from where we live. It is not practical to try to eat everything local. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could eat 30% of our diet from Hawaii products? That would be doubling the current amount and a huge economic boon. And it would taste so much better.”