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 be tricky, since not all stores label their products’ origins.
Enter Lipoa Street Farmers Market (LSFM), a new venture launched in July that sells only Maui-grown and Maui-made goods. Every Saturday morning from 8am to noon, 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.
Under the warm Saturday sun in South Maui, I met a vivacious and enthusiastic entrepreneur from Hana, Joei Tyre, and her husband Nick. They’ve formed a niche business within the LSFM called Hana Express (248-8469). On Fridays they run all around the Hana area picking up fresh fruits and vegetables from various producers, then display and sell the goods at the market. Joie and Nick have also formed the Maka’i Ola Bakery, which makes gluten-free, wheat-free and egg-free products, also for sale at LSFM. The Saturday I was there they had brownies, foccacia and cobblers, but the selection changes every week.
LSFM also has a drop-stand program, which allows those with extra produce and flowers from backyard 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, explained the work that goes into keeping the produce bug-free. “I would rather sit all day picking the bugs off than spray chemicals,” he said. “It’s hard work, but it creates a better product at the end of the day.”
The Coca Farms table was also impressive, featuring herbs, greens, beets, corn, eggplant, fresh asparagus and more. Farmer Joel Gil and his family utilize seven acres to bring forth this bounty. Gil said he usually sells out of all his products, including organic eggs for $5 a dozen. He told me he lost 75 percent of his corn to bugs, but he’s 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.”
When people hear local produce they may think “expensive,” but the prices at LSFM are very competitive—and they sell out of many things. The early bird gets the worm here.
With initiatives like Kanu Hawaii’s Eat Local Challenge that begins on September 26 (visit 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 seven days. That means no imported goods—doable yes, difficult certainly. However the result is that more people are demanding locally made, locally grown foods, and producers and sellers are responding.
For more inspiration, watch the documentary Ingredients, about the local food movement in the Pacific Northwest, screening Wednesday, September 29, at 6pm at Whole Foods Market, to support this week’s Eat Local Challenge. I asked director Robert Bates if there are enough products grown and produced on Maui to make it possible to truly subsist on a local diet. “Yes, but I don’t think that is the point,” Bates replied “I am an advocate of eating fresh food that comes from where we live, [but] it is not practical to try to eat everything local. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could eat 30 percent 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.”