The county’s Sunshine Markets are blossoming.
Since 1981, when the original markets in Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a were launched, the scene has grown to its current seven locations from Kilauea to Hanapepe, offering locally grown fruits and produce to shoppers.
“From its humble beginnings in the parking lot of the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School to seven locations throughout the Garden Isle, the Sunshine Markets have become a ‘must do’ for many of our residents and visitors,” said George Costa, director of the county’s Office of Economic Development, in an email. “I am very happy for the support given to our farmers and vendors who make their livelihood by providing our island population with fresh, healthy produce.”
For the 2010 fiscal year, the seven Sunshine Markets combined for $662,701 in revenue compared with the $11,330 recorded in 1981, according to figures released by the Office of Economic Development.
The 2010 totals reflect a six percent growth over 2009, when $625,493 was recorded for the seven locations, in turn representing a 59 percent growth over 2008 ($394,089).
Generally, the Sunshine Markets have demonstrated growth since 1981; its biggest growth was 158 percent when revenues totalled $29,175 in 1982.
“It’s great to see so many people supporting local farmers and eating healthy food grown right here on Kaua‘i,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said in an email. “We hope this trend continues and encourage everyone to patronize a farmers market near you.”
There were two periods where growth was reversed, the first being in 1992 and 1993 following the devastation of Hurricane Iniki.
In 1992, growth was recorded as -27 percent ($147,826 over five sites) compared with the 28 percent growth shown in 1991 ($201,336). In 1993, growth fell an additional three percent to $143,930 over five sites before rebounding in 1994 to $253,748, a growth of 76 percent.
Another slump took place in early- to mid-2000s when Kaua‘i suffered from weather woes, including the notable 40 days and 40 nights of rain.
Figures for 2005 showed overall revenue of $365,029, or a loss of 10 percent over 2004 ($405,315), despite the addition of the Wailua site which started in 2003 and closed down in 2007.
Figures for 2006 showed another drop of 14 percent ($315,022).
The markets floundered until 2008 when the declining trend reversed and the markets pulled in $394,089, a growth of 20 percent over 2007 ($328,820 for a four percent growth). In 2009, the markets spiked at $625,493 for a 59 percent growth before 2010’s six percent growth.
Of the individual markets, Lihu‘e, open every Friday from 3 p.m. at Vidinha Stadium parking lot, was the top market from 1981 until 1988 when Kapa‘a’s location, open every Wednesday from 3 p.m. in the New Kapa‘a Town Park parking lot, overtook Lihu‘e as the top producing location.
Bill Spitz, county economic development specialist, attributes the declining Lihu‘e market to competition which opened in several locations, the most recent being the Kaua‘i Community Market coordinated by the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau at the Kaua‘i Community College parking lot on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Another location, the Kukui Grove Monday Market starting at 3 p.m., also contributed to less shopping being done at the Vidinha Stadium location.
Despite these factors, the Lihu‘e market continues as the second strongest market, pulling in $127,617 in 2010, a seven percent growth from 2009 ($119,611).
“I only sell good things,” said Mrs. Nakamura, who was vending Filipino beans, pineapple and starfruit Friday at Vidinha Stadium for her son, Jon Nakamura.
“I taste all the items and if it’s good, then I sell. My name is mud if I cheat the shoppers,” she said. “My son said ‘no make trouble,’ because the island is a small place and if I make trouble, he’s going to hear about it.”
Kapa‘a finished 2010 with $231,751, or a seven percent growth from 2009 ($215,633).
The Koloa market, tucked away in a back corner of Anne Knudsen Park on Mondays starting at noon, is the third strongest location, finishing 2010 with revenue of $119,952, or a six percent growth over 2009 ($113,062). The Koloa 2009 total reflects a 117 percent increase over 2008 ($52,146) and had the biggest increase of all the markets in that year.
The Kalaheo market, situated in the back of the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center on Tuesdays at 3 p.m., showed an 81 percent increase in 2009 ($13,626) over its 2008 figures ($7,527).
“Looking forward, there will be additional opportunities for economic growth when value-added products which are manufactured on Kaua‘i will be available at the Sunshine Markets,” Costa said.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.