Here’s an introduction.
It may seem like they’ve been a fixture on our food scene forever, but the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF) founded its first farmers’ market in 2002, to help local farmers and showcase diversified agriculture. They got up to speed in time to surf the crest of a national wave of interest in local eating—and they’re still riding it. There are now four HFBF markets, the newest of which opened this summer in Waianae.
At an HFBF market, the rules are simple: Everything must start with the aina. These markets sell flowers and food only (no crafts allowed), that must be grown or made on Hawaiian soil. All but one of the markets take place on the weekend. With high-quality products, pleasant locations, carefully chosen vendors, plenty of grab-and-go food, and live music, they’re a recipe for a good time.
Founded in 1973, People’s Open Markets are a city and county institution. Though short on razzle-dazzle, POMs have virtues of the quieter kind: They’re friendly, unpretentious and pleasantly sane, and they exist for their communities. Most of all, they’re inexpensive. POMs are sponsored by the city: By mandate, all produce sold at POMs must cost at least 35 percent less than it would at retail (and often much less), at levels refigured each week by the POM staff.
POMs are farmers’ markets in the purest sense; vendors sell only unprocessed produce and seafood. Most, but not all, of the produce is locally grown and of high quality (two vendors are allowed to sell some Mainland-sourced overstock, which tends to be in less-than-perfect condition and is priced accordingly). When in doubt, ask.
Over the course of a week, 25 of these brief markets, which can vary in size from a few dozen customers to more than 2,000, bloom and vanish in communities across the city. Market schedules can be awkward for the nine-to-five crowd, but many of the POMs take place before work and on weekends, or coincide with lunch hour in a working district.
Privately operated farmers’ markets vary widely in their missions, rules and execution, but the best offer some of Hawaii’s most interesting and memorable farmers’ market experiences. Some independent markets have Web sites you can visit for more information.
CHANGE IS GOOD. Vendors always welcome small bills and/or correct change, particularly at the beginning of a market.
GET THERE EARLY, especially if you want the market’s choicest goods. The most popular vendors may sell out and pack up long before the market’s official end.
BRING A BAG. A sturdy shopping bag or market basket mean that vendors won’t have to swathe your veggies in planet-busting plastic.
BRING A COOLER for anything fresh or cold, so you don’t have to rush home.
TALK STORY. If they have time, farmers are usually happy to tell you all about the produce you’re about to buy, when it’s in season, how to cook it, and what else you can expect through the year.
EXPAND YOUR REPERTOIRE. Why stick to the old zucchini, tomato, corn rotation? Ask how to prepare an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable, and let it change the way you eat.
SEIZE THE DAY. If you see something you like, enjoy it while you can. What’s available changes with the seasons, and every time you go back, there will be something different.
All-Island Hawaii Farmers’ Market Listing
A reliable, up-to-date listing and schedule for all major farmers’ markets in the state.
Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation Markets
General information and updated weekly vendor lists for HFBF’s four Oahu farmer’s markets.
People’s Open Market
History, mission and detailed schedule for Oahu’s 25 POMs.
Hawaii Seasonality Chart
In-season calendar information for the islands’ most popular fruits and veggies.