Farm Link Hawaiʻi's sourcing of local produce and meat has proved successful but challenges remain
A grocery store on wheels. That’s the goal of Farm Link Hawaiʻi, an online platform that customers can use to purchase local produce and other goods.
The company started in 2015 with the goal to connect farmers to consumers. When the pandemic hit, they took a more direct approach to that mission, instituting a home delivery model.
In just the past few months, they've expanded their free delivery options and started offering local meat.
Farm Link Hawaiʻi CEO Claire Sullivan says the company’s growth is promising, but challenges remain on the path to maintaining a local food system in Hawaiʻi.
"At the outset, Farm Link was really dedicated to local producers on the farming side," Sullivan said. "So in the beginning, it would have been all produce, all the time. Now you can find things like eggs and bread and tofu and noodles that are made locally."
Hawaiʻi has had difficulty maintaining local meat production because of the limited number of slaughterhouses, but Sullivan says the "meat scene" has seen a lot of activity.
"There are flourishing producers already — and folks who are ready to grow, willing to scale, if and when they have the opportunity to do so," she told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "We also have built up our capacity by having a butcher in-house with the addition of the very talented Bob McGee, which means we're going to be able to do value-added products like smoked meat and sausages."
Though they just launched meat on their market a week ago, Sullivan says the demand is voracious.
But Farm Link is not completely free of the unpredictability of the international supply chain. Sullivan says they're still quite intertwined in the global system.
"We work with a lot of local suppliers who are having trouble getting access to their packaging right now," Sullivan said. "But by continuing to bolster the capacity of our local production, and then build up the ancillary businesses for packaging and ingredients, we're starting to improve upon our resilience, to grow it, and at the same time, meet our needs in the moment and improve that economic diversification."
"So it's just such a win-win-win on all fronts that it's really a pleasure, and in some ways feels like an obligation, to be part of building that up as a company, as a business, and also as a local consumer."
And in an effort to promote access to healthy local foods, Farm Link Hawaiʻi accepts SNAP-EBT and partners with DA BUX, an incentive to make Hawaiʻi-grown produce more affordable.
This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 25, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.