CSA finds life after the farmers markets

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Marissa Tanji and Rachel Medeiros of Monkeypod Jam prepare a CSA box, Tuesday morning at the Monkeypod Jam kitchens and cafe in Lawai.

LAWAI — Marissa Tanji of Monkeypod Jam has a new job, effective Monday when the farmers market shut down as a result of Novel Coronavirus concerns.

“We would have to cut her hours,” said Aletha Thomas, owner of Monkeypod Jams, one of the vendors at both Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau supported farmers markets. “We didn’t want to do that. She’s now in charge of the Community Supported Agriculture program that launched, Monday.”

Thomas is not sure who came up with the CSA moniker, but the program was met with a large response when Monkeypod Jam joined the network of other CSA programs that started in response to the market closures.

“This is a terrifying moment for everyone,” she said. “As a small business owner, I have eight people on payroll. I’m doing everything I can to ensure I don’t have to cut hours or positions. With the CSA program getting a warm welcome and support, Marissa who used to be in charge at the farmers market, is now in charge of the CSA program. She’s not doing just busy work, she’s doing productive work.”

The CSA program is a solution to the farmers’ dilemma of having product and nowhere to vend.

“We’re still maintaining the farmers market at the Po‘ipu Shopping Village for twice a month,” said Jen Ortal, the market coordinator for that site. “We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from other vendors, but we can’t put in more.”

Monkeypod Jam, working with its list of farmer relationships established from sources for their product offerings, is working with their suppliers to set up a customized CSA box that includes meals and deli items using local farm ingredients and fresh farm products — all at farmers market pricing.

“We are launching a partnership CSA with Hannah Huang of Glory Farm,” Thomas said. “This partnership offers Glory Farm produce, Monkeypod Jam preserves, and our bistro items for family dinners.”

Huang works with other farmers and keeps Monkeypod Jam updated with what is available from Glory Farm. These are added to the current offerings from Monkeypod Jam and made available through online ordering.

“This is where customization comes in,” Tanji said. “If you want just one tomato, or three, you can order that and it’ll be placed in your box. The same applies to the current offering — you’re not limited to take what’s there.”

Ordering is done online through their website with pickups at the Lawai store on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Deliveries to the Kalaheo and South Shore areas are also available on those days.

“Being a small business does have advantages,” Thomas said. “We are incredibly nimble and can pivot at a moment’s notice. As a team, we are focusing on our website sales for mainland customers and ramping up our efforts to support our local community.”

There are CSA partnerships at other major locations on the island, Tanji said.

“We are one CSA partnership taking care of Kalaheo and the South Shore,” she said. “I know Ha Coffee Bar has a CSA taking care of Lihu‘e and the Eastside. There is even a dairy CSA that takes care of the North Shore area.”

Megan Fox of Malama Kaua‘i texted that Sol Kahn, a farmer and vendor at the Kaua‘i Culinary Market at The Shops at Kukui‘ula has also restarted his CSA.

“As you drive by Monkeypod Jam in Lawai, you cannot help but notice the mason jar mural on the front of our building with the Tagline ‘Preserving Hawai‘i,’” Thomas said. “Monkeypod Jam is deeply committed to Preserving Hawai‘i at this time of uncertainty and added stress.”

She encourages people to follow Monkeypod Jam on Facebook and Instagram for timely produce updates. Newsletters are also available for those who provide email addresses.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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