ANAHOLA — Are there any others?
Michelle Bonilla wanted to know, as she accepted her bag of fresh produce from the gloved hands of farmer Watchara Meephol in the shadow of the Kalalea mountains in Anahola, where the Kalalea Anahola Farmers Hui debuted the Saturday version of its traditional Sunday market on March 22.
“This is like a pop up grocery store,” said Aggie Marti-Kini, president of the Kalalea hui. “We take the same safety precautions as grocery stores in this COVID-19 times. We even have enhanced protocols as well — we limit the number of people (into the roped off market section), and everyone — including the vendors, and especially those who handle money, and shoppers — get gloves before they can enter.”
More sanitary precautions include the permanent installation of a hand-washing sink next to the area where Lihu‘e and Joe Lopez, operators of The Green Pig food truck in Kealia, were distributing freshly-cooked snacks. More hand sanitizing stations were available at the individual vending stations that numbered 20, Saturday as shoppers browsed under the canopy of Polynesian drums echoing in the serene Anahola air.
“This is healthier than a grocery store,” said Bo Kamala of Hawaiian Style 10-Minute Massage. “I even had to get booties to do massage, and it’s outdoors in fresh air where there is a lot of Vitamin D.”
The Saturday market emerged in the face of farmers markets closing due to COVID-19 concerns.
“People have got to make a living,” Marti-Kini said. “This is a healthy space for everyone — shoppers and vendors. Farmers provide an essential service — they produce food. Most of these farmers are just a paycheck away from losing everything.”
Farmer Meephol, normally vending at the county’s sunshine market network as well as at the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau’s markets, said his main concern was to move the produce that was planted ahead of any COVID-19 concerns. Those plantings are now ready for market.
“We have plenty vegetables, now,” Meephol said. “But no mo’ money because the markets closed. Even the restaurants, they’re closing. What we going do? If we no can move the vegetables, they going to waste because we have to throw away.”
Kristine Yulo was stationed at the greeters’ station, armed with application forms for both recipients and vendors for the county’s Kupuna Kare of Farmer Fare program that will deliver fresh Kaua‘i-grown produce directly to kupuna.
The program coordinated between the county’s Office of Economic Development, the Office of Elderly Affairs in partnership with the Hawai‘i Foodbank, Kaua‘i Branch will acquire produce from the sunshine market farmers and distributed to the island’s high risk kupuna over the age of 70 years.
“It’s hard,” Yulo said. “A lot of the people don’t even understand English, and when they get the applications, they throw it away, or put it away because they need help going through the paperwork.”
Kaua‘i Kunana Dairy was another vendor at the Saturday market, offering a wide range of product ranging from fresh produce to Value Added dairy products. Additionally, Kelsea Carrasco, the market representative, was recruiting for the Community Supported Agriculture packages Kunana Dairy initiated in the aftermath of farmers market closings.
Carrasco explained the CSA partnership that involves customers visiting the kauaikunanadairy.com website for the current offerings, ordering, and then either picking up the package on Wednesdays or Saturdays, or having deliveries on the same dates between Lihu‘e and Hanalei.
“Thank goodness for this market,” said Carrasco, who jotted names and contact information from interested shoppers onto a growing list. “We are so happy to be here. Times are tough.”
Tim Hand, a designer and lasersmith for Insert Brand Here, is a regular vendor with the Anahola market, was pleased as he watched a shopper collect a handful of coasters, refusing the offer of a package.
“This market is definitely good for everyone’s morale,” said Hand, whose technology background helps the Kalalea hui with its website and other Internet-related needs. “We’re closing down our clothing store in Kapa‘a because of COVID-19. Having this market gives the farmers a home after being displaced by the closure of the farmers markets. We plan on doing this for the duration of the COVID-19.”