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Insights & Stories

Getting the Green - How to Eat Fresh and Support Hawaii Farms

Reading time: 4 Minutes

April 30th, 2020

COVID-19 has changed a lot about our lives. It's changed the way we love: interacting with friends and family from six feet apart, or through a phone screen. The way we work: for so many of us, remotely, from our kitchen tables or couches.

It's even changed the way we eat. Sit-down restaurants are a luxury of the past. And, with the threat of contagion on everyone's mind, grocery trips are kept to a minimum. The result: Hawaii's food system has been turned on its head, and it is more important than ever to rethink how we shop and eat, while supporting a vital resource: our local farmers.

Fortunately, there's a great way to help out Hawaii's agricultural industry while getting direct access to fresh, wholesome veggies, fruits and herbs for your (many!) at-home meals: Community-Supported Agriculture, more commonly known as CSA.

How does it work?

CSAs allow customers to purchase directly from a local farm, sometimes even before the crops are grown. This means proceeds go directly to farmers, who also get a better idea of how much of their crop is is guaranteed to sell.

Many of the CSA offerings in Hawai'i come in the form of farmer's boxes, which can be bought in the form of a subscription, or singly, and contain a convenient variety of items from the farm, selected at the farmers' discretion. This allows farmers to include the products that are freshest from the farm, and that need to move. For example, instead of getting 1,000 requests for Okinawan sweet potato when piles of 'ulu are sitting ready to be eaten, they can use their farm's bounty to fill the bellies of the community in the most efficient way.

What comes in a CSA box?

You'll see great variety in local farmer's boxes, from fruits to veggies to herbs, in reasonable amounts. For instance: Last week's Ma'o Farms' boxes ($32) included salad greens, as well as cooking greens such as kale, beets, carrots, radishes and green onions. The box held about 10.5 pounds of produce, enough to feed a family of three for a week.

While Ma'o Farms boxes require an eight-week commitment, many boxes do not. North Shore family farm Fields of Aloha's boxes ($35) are available weekly by texting or calling the farm directly. Kahumana Farm ($30-50) accepts a certain amount of new subscribers each week as well, until goods run out and customers go on a waitlist.

Many of these local farms are family farms, which means your money goes directly to the community members growing your food. At Ahiki Farms, Matt McKinnon and Haley Miyaoka update their online shop with boxes ($25) and ala carte items daily. They also, like many other farms, link up with partners to add variety to their offerings. Just recently, they added products made by vegan restaurant Juicy Brew to their online store.

Mari's Garden, a hydroponic, family-run farm in Mililani, includes on its online marketplace bars from Manoa Chocolate, Peterson's Farms eggs, Aloha Sunrise granola, Lani Sweets & Treats ginger chips, Shaka Tea drinks and Aloun Farms produce, in addition to its own produce and flowers.

Where can you find them?

In the age of COVID-19, these farms and organizations are arranging quick, easy and safe pick-ups, either at farmer's markets or at specific times and locations throughout Oahu. Family-run De La Mesa Farm on the Windward Side just reopened its online store with produce boxes ($30) this week after selling out earlier in the season, and offers an on-farm pick-up for free, or a town-based Kokua Market pick-up for $5.

Kula at Fields of Aloha have set up a convenient curbside pick-up system in which drivers don't even have to get out of their car. Markets such as Roots Kalihi's Food Hub is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, with produce from its local organic partners and take-out meals from its health-centric cafe. Customers then are able to make a quick stop for items like kalo, luau and more, with availability posted on its Instagram page beforehand.

In some cases, you can even get fresh produce delivered right to your door. Oahu Fresh, an organization that works closely with farms, offers bags that have six to seven items, which customers can pick up or get delivered to their home. ($20-$35, plus a delivery fee that depends on your location.)

Check out the green scene.

In short, while the COVID-19 lockdown has challenged our food supply chain, it has also opened up opportunities for innovation and new ways of interacting and supporting local agriculture. Quarantine doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your health or your ability to buy from local farms—in fact, there are more ways to do so now than ever before.

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