PUHI — Shoppers stopped, and almost inevitably ended up with a sample box that included jars of herb salt and jam and more than one bag of herbal tea Saturday at the Pueo Gardens tent that blended in with the other vendors in the Puhi Park Produce.
Tyler Gage, instructor of the finance class at the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, said Pueo Gardens is a year project, the students now bringing the fruits of their labor to market at the group’s first appearance Saturday, almost a year to date since the first Puhi Park Produce market opened on April 11, 2020.
Pueo Gardens is a collection of students in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grades who are taking Gage’s finance class, and the offering to the public is a result of their classroom work that includes growing herbs hydroponically in class.
“We started with a $25,000 grant from Farmers Insurance,” Gage said. “That allowed us to investigate several hydroponic systems. The profits — every buyer gets a chance to vote — will be accumulated, and following six weeks of retailing, will be presented to a nonprofit that receives the highest number of votes from the shoppers.”
The student-based enterprise where students had hands-on experience in all phases of development, from product to labels, and even the design for the identifying caps they wore, produces a variety of different herb salts, herbal tea that includes an infuser, and special jams in minty apple and minty apple lemon flavors.
“We’re working with ghost pepper right now,” Gage said. “It should be ready for next week with ghost pepper salt.”
Pueo Gardens is the latest addition to the Puhi Park Produce that turned the page on its second anniversary since starting as a relief from the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses were forced to severely curtail operations, and in many instances shut down completely.
Grove Farm started the Saturday market at the open field near its headquarters as a way to offer a safe and convenient marketplace for fishermen and farmers to sell their wares. Many of them have agricultural leases on Grove Farm property.
“The market helped my family, and my extended Thai family, sell our produce when it was hard to find places to sell,” said Sakda Meephol to the Grove Farm newsletter team. “It really helped us out. Now, the Puhi location is our No. 1 sales spot thanks to the many customers who come to see us weekly.”
Those customers highlight a major change to the market as Grove Farm embarks on a new page for the second anniversary.
“We just opened up additional parking last week,” said Dave Hinazumi of Grove Farm, tending market with Grove Farm employee and County Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro Saturday. “Right now, there’s more than 100 new spaces added.”
The additional parking is located west of Kikowaena Street across from the park.
“Due to the community’s overwhelming support of the Grove Farm market, we opened up additional parking for more than 100 vehicles,” said Warren Haruki, president and CEO of Grove Farm Co. “This will make it more convenient and safe for patrons who come to the popular Saturday event.”
Another change to the market that starts a 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays is the change of name from Puhi Park Produce to Grove Farm Market, with the new signs already solidly anchored near the vendor entrance that has been smoothed out and hardened following the recent rains.
“Our current vendors certainly sell great fresh produce, and that tradition will continue,” states the Grove Farm newsletter. “The adddition of the word ‘market’ better describes the fresh fish, food products, value-added items and other unique locally made items.”
Brad Nakayama of Hanalei Taro &Juice said the market allowed him to get his product beyond the Hanalei River.
“When things began shutting down and tourists stopped coming, Hanalei was very slow, and we went from selling seven days a week to just three days a week,” Nakayama told the GF newsletter crew. “The market filled a huge void for us — it became our largest revenue day of the week, and it allowed us to bring our North Shore products to Lihu‘e.”
Similarly, Nonaka Farms expanded its farm fresh produce with Nicol Nonaka’s baked goods to bring the half moons — available in apple or coconut — past the Kalaheo plateau.
The responses from the more than 60 vendors and the thousands of people served during the course of one year mark the start of the Grove Farm Market’s second anniversary since the pandemic touched the shores of Kaua‘i.
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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.