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By Lavonne Leong
Fresh flowers and produce from the North Shore Country Market (left and lower right) and KCC Farmer's Market (top).
Photos: David Croxford
Lemongrass, goat’s cheese, coffee, figs (and paria, gobo, won bok and kalo). You name it, someone is probably growing or making it in Hawaii—and the best place to find it is at a farmers’ market. With fertile soils, a year-round growing climate and a diverse population, we are blessed with some of the most fascinating farmers’ markets in the United States.
There are about a hundred farmers’ markets in the Islands, more than three dozen on Oahu alone. There are urban markets and rural ones, markets for early birds and late risers, markets that sell old-time ethnic ingredients and others that specialize in organic products. Some offer a dazzling day out, others are there for those who just want a nice, cheap, locally grown tomato (yes, they do exist). Some of our farmers’ markets are world famous; the existence of others may surprise even the most committed locavores. Here are a few of the finest.
An evening farmers’ market? In a parking garage? They said it would never work, but the only pau hana farmers’ market on Oahu hoisted its colors in 2004 and hasn’t looked back. Kailua has imbued its HFBF market with some of its own laid-back, sophisticated essence. It’s a busy market in the cool of the evening that keeps its priorities straight: super-fresh, all-local produce; scrumptious, ready-to-eat foods, a friendly community vibe; and a not-too-big, not-too-small sense of proportion.
The scent of white ginger and fragrant roses (a steal at $2 a bunch) wafts through this market, along with live music and the agreeable hum of conversation from a range of knowledgeable growers, farmers and producers, several of whom come only to the Kailua market.
The concrete venue turns out to be a plus: there’s plenty of parking, and when it rains (this is the Windward Side, after all), you’ll be glad to be under cover. This little market is just right.
Maybe it’s the long drive from town. When you pull into the parking lot of the North Shore Country Market, white tents gleam in the sun, vendors seem genuinely pleased to see you and, across the street, the waters of Ehukai Beach glitter. It looks like a good time—and it is.
This independent farmers’ market has nearly quadrupled in size since 2005. Now, with 62 regular vendors, you can find organic and local produce, fresh flowers, wearable art, blown glass, handmade kapa and woven lauhala, baked goods, and much more, all of it distinctive and made or grown in Hawaii.
Run as part of a nonprofit microenterprise, the market retains the creative, eco-frontier vibe of the North Shore. Farmers arrive at about 9 a.m., and most have left by noon. Unlike many other markets, vendors are not committed to a strict schedule. You never know quite who’s going to be there, but it’s always one of the most intriguing and friendly markets around.
Says George Johnson, directing manager of the NCSM, “We’re a family market. Everybody knows each other. It’s a happy place and it’s just going to get better.”
Visit www.northshorecountrymarket.org (not to be confused with www.northshorecountrymarket.com, an outdated site).