WAIMEA — “How much do I owe you?”
The question from a resident answering the doorbell as the Waimea Huakai residential project caught Hale Puna student intern Keelan Maina‘aupo by surprise Thursday afternoon.
“We’re from the farmers’ market across the road,” Maina‘aupo stammered, fishing for words out of the warm Waimea afternoon. “We just wanted you to have this. There’s no cost.”
The student interns took to the road Thursday afternoon to deliver 35 welcome baskets (bags) to each of the new families who have made the Waimea Huakai housing project their new homes.
“This is something every town needs,” said Jim Ballantine of the Gulick-Rowell House museum and restoration project. “They’ve been working on it for quite a while, and it’s finally finished. They are full with 35 families, and now they start the next phase.”
The welcome baskets harbored a collection of fresh, locally-grown produce from local farmers and specialty- made products from Kaua‘i farms. Hale Puna also partnered with West Kaua‘i businesses to include a variety of gift cards, gift certificates and coupons to local restaurants in the baskets.
Some of the participating businesses include Koke‘e Lodge, Resilient Roots, Kekaha Agriculture Association, Corteva Agriscience, Hartung Bros. Hawai‘i, Gather Federal Credit Union, Kaua‘i Recycling, Wrangler’s Steakhouse, Island Taco, G’s Juice, Ku‘ulei’s Gourmet, Super Duper Two, Hoku’s Food Truck, Chicken in a Barrel, Da Pizza Place and Tiki’s Tacos.
“It is our aim to welcome these families to our neighborhood and give them a head start on becoming a part of our community,” said Candice Lecroix of Hale Puna.
“Hale Puna is committed to promoting cultural and economic resilience by ensuring that fresh, locally-grown and sustainable food is accessible to all members of our community. Eventually, we want these families to know that Hale Puna is a resource they can come to and learn from just as our student interns do.”
“They’re (the student interns) pretty dependable,” said Emilio Ruiz of Resilient Roots. “They come for a couple of hours a week, and always on Thursdays, for the farmers’ market.”
While a group of student interns trooped off to the Waimea Huakai project, the rest of the group returned to chores taking care of the farmers’ market, including grinding fresh sugarcane water and weeding in the fruit forest.
“We started offering starters at the farmers’ market,” Lecroix said. “Eventually, we want to see more people growing their own produce. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are growing things at home, and we want to see this practice spread. The proceeds from the market help us pay the student interns for their time here.”
Student interns Keoni Kanahele, Keanu Niau and Kahana Masuda formed a team cranking out fresh sugarcane water, and measuring it into recycled glass water bottles.
“These go up to the Koke‘e Lodge, where they sell it,” Ballantine said. “People use it to make a variety of teas as well as enjoy it straight from the bottle. The grinder is something you find in Thailand, where they strap it onto a bicycle to make sugarcane water in the streets. It’s a miniature version of the big grinders we had in the sugar mills.”
The market also offers a variety of produce and fruits, including dragonfruit, ‘ulu, noni, and grapefruit-infused goat-milk soap, loofah, marketwear including T-shirts and stickers, and more.
Ballantine said the Gulick-Rowell House is the oldest house on Kaua‘i, work having been started in 1828.
“The oldest house on O‘ahu was built after that, in 1829,” Ballantine said. “And the monkeypod tree is on the national historic register. It’s 200 years old, and was originally given to the missionaries when they arrived.”
Lecroix said more historical anecdotes and glimpses will take place on the next farmers’ market when they will have four or five local famers available, and live music, Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. under the monkeypod tree at the Gulick-Rowell House in Waimea.
Hale Puna, formerly known as the Gulick-Rowell House, is currently being restored with the help of local students and neighbors who have planted more than 75 fruit trees and crops on site and started emergency roof repairs. Work continues to prepare the house for its third century for the residents of West Kaua‘i and visitors.