New produce program launched

  • Contributed by Emilio Ruiz-Romero

    At Hale Puna, fruits are ready for pick up.

  • Contributed by Emilio Ruiz-Romero

    Kauai CSA Initiative volunteer Kevin Roxburgh stands at the ready in front of The Local Beet in Koloa.

LAWA‘I — A Kaua‘i nonprofit, The MonkeyPod, launched their Kauai CSA (community-supported agriculture) Initiative box pick-up location in the middle of last month, at The Local Beet in Koloa.

The MonkeyPod Board members Julia Matseshe, Emilio Ruiz-Romero, Candice Klein, Andrew Matseshe and Makana Kaohi said they are ecstatic about their new project.

“I am so excited to support this opportunity to provide quality, locally-grown produce and products,” said Klein, MonkeyPod treasurer.

”By supporting our local farmers, we are building a stronger and healthier future for our community and families,” she said.

Kauai CSA Initiative works with local businesses and farmers to help create CSA boxes and organize pick-up locations throughout Kaua‘i.

“It launched its first pick-up location at The Local Beet,” said Ruiz-Romero, MonkeyPod chairman.

“Our second pickup location is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2021, at Hale Puna in Waimea. The really cool thing is, the website and coordination for the program are done by a nonprofit called The MonkeyPod, and the portion of the program that is completed by The MonkeyPod is done through 100% volunteer work.

“We are working with a skeleton crew right now, but we are able to run and operate everything with just these five people as volunteers, as well as the Kaua‘i CSA Initiative sponsor companies,” Ruiz-Romero added.

Ruiz-Romero said sponsor companies do not donate money. They give only their time and resources, such as location and volunteer hours from their staff.

The three sponsor companies they are currently working with include Resilient Roots, The Local Beet and Hale Puna, a nonprofit on the Westside that perpetuates the rich history of the Westside while promoting cultural and economic resilience within the community.

“We are so excited to be able to offer CSAs to the Westside communities,” said Director of Hale Puna Jim Ballentine, director of Hale Puna.

“We are delighted at any opportunity we have to increase our community’s access to fresh produce,” Ballentine said.

Ruiz-Romero said Kaua‘i CSA Initiative is not just an online store.

“We are an advocate for Kaua‘i farmers, local business and sustainability,” Ruiz-Romero said.

“Kaua‘i CSA was conceptualized and built with the purpose of bridging the gap between farmer, producer and consumer. It is our mission to make finding locally-grown, sourced and produced foods easy to find, buy and consume.”

As far as profits of this new program, Ruiz-Romero said The MonkeyPod and Kaua‘i CSA make no profits from the sales on their website, which is why their CSA boxes and add-on products are priced so reasonably.

“There is no mark-up. All products and vegetables are sold at MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price),” Ruiz-Romero said.

“The MonkeyPod wants to help individuals and other organizations achieve the dream of a sustainable, healthy and resilient Kaua‘i. That is a tall order for a small group of people, but we believe that when we work as a community great things can happen.”

According to Ruiz-Romero, owner of Resilient Roots, The Local Beet saw a need for a CSA box outlet close to the south and west sides of the island, and mentioned the concept to him. This aligned with The MonkeyPod’s mission to support agriculture and sustainability on Kaua‘i.

“Being a board member of The MonkeyPod, Resilient Roots owner, Emilio Ruiz-Romero brought the idea to The MonkeyPod and asked that it support and create an outlet for locally-sourced vegetables and products at The Local Beet,” a Kaua‘i CSA Initiative spokesperson said. “The Kaua‘i CSA Initiative grew and developed from that.

Ruiz-Romero said as the website was built and The MonkeyPod board saw its potential, the Kaua‘i CSA Initiative has grown from being a single outlet to a platform that will advocate for local farmers and business.

“Right now it creates and hosts web pages for farms throughout Kaua‘i that do not have an online presence, and it creates and posts recipes that showcase locally-grown produce,” Ruiz-Romero said.

After going to the website, kauaicsa.org, residents need to order before 5 p.m. on Wednesdays to pick-up at The Local Beet on Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m., and order before 5 p.m. on Tuesdays to pick up at Hale Puna on Thursdays between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. weekly.

Other free services provided by Kaua‘i CSA Initiative include:

w Helping farmers create a web presence so they can concentrate on farming. Taking photos and video and publishing dedicated pages for farms on Kaua‘i CSA Initiative’s website. If a farm has a website, Kaua‘i CSA Initiative can either create a separate page on its website or link to a farm or farmer’s page from their site;

w Helping disseminate information about available funding for local farms and helping walk farmers through processes that can be cumbersome for less-technologically-savvy individuals;

w Helping connect farmers to producers and consumers, connecting them to outlets for their produce;

The Local Beet is a shop inside Warehouse 3540 in Lawa‘i. “It offers produce and products that are locally-grown, sourced and produced from all over Kaua‘i,” Ruiz-Romero said. “It is a great place to find products from all over Kaua‘i, all in one place.”

“The purpose of our business is to be able to connect local farmers and local products to consumers, and the CSA program is a great complement to what we are already trying to accomplish,” said Kevin Roxburgh and Melissa Roxburgh, owners and operators of The Local Beet.

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Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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