Grateful farmers give back

  • Courtesy of Grove Farm Company

    Grove Farm Company lessee farmers gather at the Grove Farm office in Puhi with donated produce that was dispatched to several community organizations.

PUHI — When the Puhi Park Produce farmers’ market was formulated, the intention was to provide an outlet for farmers, many of whom lease land from the Grove Farm Company for their agricultural enterprises.

This being the case, the Puhi Park Produce assessed no fees to participating farmers who could reach the community members with their assortment of harvests that include freshly-grown vegetables and fruits.

Recently, a group of these farmers demonstrated their gratefulness and appreciation for Grove Farm and the Puhi Park Produce by dropping off a load of produce and fruit the group collectively gathered.

“This was a total surprise,” said Shawn Shimabukuro of Grove Farm.

“Not only did they have their fruits and vegetables, they even brought their wives and children. Many of these farmers came from Thailand, where they dealt with extremely trying times with human-trafficking issues that some endured, and farming issues with forces of nature like the rain, wind and dought. They never had to deal with what is taking place in the world today.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Hawai‘i, rules, regulations and mandates took effect, draining the farmers’ markets as hotels and restaurants shut down, and farmers’ markets were closed. This is when Puhi Park Produce was born, meeting twice weekly, from 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and starting at 10 a.m. on Saturdays.

“These farmers from Thailand were the most appreciative, and wanted to give back by donating produce to help others,” Shimabukuro said. “Knowing this, everyone quickly came together to distribute the donated fresh produce to local community organizers quickly. The farmers will continue to donate produce in the coming weeks as well.”

Koloa School Principal Leila Kobayashi and her teachers and staff were able to include donated bananas with its grab-and-go meal distribution, and special banana chips sold at the Puhi Park Produce by Preeda Panyamee were presented to the school’s teachers in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week.

Bronson Ho and Arnold Valle of Hale Kupuna Heritage Home in ‘Oma‘o received produce that will be used at its 84-bed nursing facility, and the staff at Garden Isle Rehabilitation &Healthcare at Wilcox Medical Center received produce that will be used at its 109-bed facility.

Kaua‘i Hospice received an assortment of fruits and vegetables that will be shared with in-home hospice patients’ families.

“These patients’ families are struggling with their loved ones’ situations, and usually do not want to leave home to get groceries,” Shimabukuro said. “These donated produce items are most welcome.”

“The Grove Farm family wants to express their deepest gratitude to these generous farmers,” Shimabukuro said.

“Their hard work, day in and day out, plays a big role towards improving our island’s food sustainability. Thank you to Sakda and Usa Meephol, Wirat Yothachai, Nap, Dang, Watchara and Toy Meephol, Bob, Buniai, Taworn, Pat, Sawaeng “Wang” See-Akkahad, Paisan Ngamdee and their families for continuing the circle of caring, giving and helping. These efforts will carry us forward through these times — the true aloha spirit — heartwarming, endearing, joyous and thankful — in vivid display.”

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

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