As people learn new habits in response to concerns about the novel coronavirus, where and how people get good food is high on the list of new challenges.
Last Sunday, the Kailua farmers’ market was mistakenly closed, but that market and many others plan to keep operating so we can support local farmers.
“Farmers’ markets are not events, they are pop-up grocery stores,” said Pamela Boyar, owner of Farm Lovers farmers markets, with three locations on O‘ahu. “We’re actually very healthy to shop at.”
Boyar’s largely visitor-oriented Hale‘iwa location is closed for now, but her markets in Pearlridge, Ala Moana at Ward and Kailua are on, with modifications.
“We have signs on every booth that say: You touch, you buy. Every produce vendor is different. Some are handing out gloves as a person enters. Our customers just need to be patient so we can continue with this rightful protocol,” she said.
Boyar says when last Sunday’s Kailua farmers market was mistakenly shut down, as much as $30,000 in retail sales were lost.
“People are so desperate for money right now. We lost about 20,000 pounds of locally grown produce. How important our local farmers are! If we do truly become isolated, they will be the ones who are growing the food for us.”
Brian Miyamoto, executive director of the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation, feels their pain.
“We really want to keep our farmers and ranchers in production. We want to provide food for our residents here in Hawai‘i,” he said.
Miyamoto says it’s actually a time to grow the industry, although “access to capital is going to be difficult,” going forward. "Hopefully when we recover, the markets are still there.” That’s why protecting agricultural supply lines that exist now is critical.
Honolulu and Kaua‘i County have closed their public farmers markets, but many privately run markets continue. On Kauai, according to the county government's economic development branch, they are connecting farmers to seniors at home who can use the produce. Honolulu County's farmers' markets can be found here. Find the link to Kauai's Sunshine Markets here.
On Maui, the Upcountry Farmers Market is planning to go ahead with operations on Saturday but county officials were meeting late yesterday on possible measures responding to the coronavirus.
Kaua‘i County is looking at an online registry for farmers who want to connect directly with people who eat.