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Jan 27, 2015

The Value of a Farmers Market

Photos by Rachel Halemanu

Every Saturday, well before shopkeepers open their doors, the parking lot at Ward Warehouse comes alive.

Booths are set up in the blink of an eye, produce piled high on tables next to warm baked goods and cold kombucha. Catch it at the right time, and you will hear teens who spend free hours farming at MA'O Organic Farms on O'ahu's west side sing out a song that lures you to their booth. Get your kale, get your daikon, get your just-harvested Hawai'i produce.

In 2012, Walk Score, a company that rates the walkability of a community, researched the question, "How many of the country's 50 top-populated cities have a five-minute walking distance to fresh produce for their residents?" The answer: only three. While urban living can often be a tradeoff for access to such dietary staples, this is far from true on O'ahu. In Honolulu, as in cities from Tokyo to Paris, farmers markets are one answer popping up in neighborhoods and open spaces that provide access to the freshest locally grown ingredients. In fact, in the United States in the last decade, the number of farmers markets has more than tripled, a sign that the value of fresh produce, as well as knowing the farmers who grow it, is on the rise.

In Hawai'i, with a year-round growing season and an abundance of fertile soil, there is never a lull in the supply. Here, farmers grow incredible crops mere miles from city residents' doorsteps, and researchers are exploring how to farm within the urban core. Two years ago, according to the 2013 State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, Hawai'i ranked no. 6 in the country for its number of farmers markets per capita, and no. 3 for the percentage of acreage harvested for fruits and vegetables.

According to the USDA, and plain common sense, these burgeoning regional food systems not only keep residents healthier but also offer important opportunities for young and beginning farmers, the future of Hawai'i's food security. Cue: The Kaka'ako Farmers market. Here, you can get to know young farmers growing the very produce you may come across in any O'ahu grocery store. Once Whole Foods, debuting in 2016 in Ward Village, opens its doors, Ward Village residents will be able to buy their local produce within walking distance either from the cheerful farmers market on Saturday mornings or the sustainability-oriented grocery store any weekday night.

Kaka'ako Farmers Market
Every Saturday, 8:00am – 12:00 noon
Ward Warehouse Parking Lot


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