Afterthoughts: Eat and Greet
When’s the last time you got to meet the maker?
Taking refuge from the hot sun in Once Again Hawai‘i’s tent at the Kapi‘olani Community College Farmers Market, I browsed neat rows of succulents, admiring their curious shapes. I wasn’t planning to buy any, but the friendly workers struck up a conversation and, next thing I knew, I was walking away with four plants.
This is what happens when I wake up early.
Though 8 a.m. might not seem early to dawn patrollers, moms, yard workers or morning people, I am none of those. I’d much rather sleep in and stay up late, getting things done after the world has gone to bed. I’m a night owl, and so were J.R.R. Tolkien and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
That meant I had never been to the KCC Farmers Market, which closes by the time I’m usually rolling out of bed. But after wrapping an early meeting for a story assignment one Saturday, I was determined to make the most of the rest of my morning. KCC was on my way home, so this little piggy went to market.
As soon as I stepped into the hot parking lot, I was reminded of the swap meet at Aloha Stadium, which I used to visit on scorching summer days with my grandma. Tourists and locals swarmed the rows of pop-up tents, some picking up groceries, others looking for omiyage.
Not 10 booths in, I sampled Macnella—chocolate macadamia nut spread—and roasted mac nut honey butter from the Big Island’s Ahualoa Farms. Already I had encountered something I had never seen in stores. I bought some, then immediately picked up a few jars of local honey at the next booth.
If I wasn’t careful, I knew I could blow half my paycheck before 10 a.m.
Rows and rows of booths called out to me—fresh greens, cold lemonade, hot pho, local eggs, kettle corn, pineapple cakes, peaberry coffee, lotions and soaps. I didn’t need any of it, but I wanted it all.
So I went again. I tried half a dozen different kinds of honey from Nalo Meli, comparing the taste of coconut, macadamia, Christmas berry, mango, lehua and more while the staff answered my questions about their five-year reserve honey, which tastes like molasses. The folks at Orchid Isle Snacks taught me all about each of their beef jerky flavors as I ate them and how they try to cut down on salt and sugar by using shoyu and honey.
Put me face to face with someone who is passionate about their business and determined to make a living supporting sustainability and I melt. As soon as I look into the eyes of someone who proudly prepared an artisanal product, especially after I’ve sampled it and they’ve given me their time, I can’t say no.
Because we need more of that. Sure, we cheer when big-box stores bring us low prices that make our insanely high cost of living manageable, but it’s the connections between real people, and the land, that make us a community.
After floods damaged Nalo Farms in April, the community helped raise more than $100,000 through GoFundMe. Donors included anonymous patrons who could spare $10, local farmers and chefs giving 100 bucks—HouseMart even donated $2,500, from one local business to another. It’s amazing how people come through in a crisis; it’s almost more amazing when they vow to support these companies as part of their everyday lives by shopping local.
Farmers markets aren’t like supermarkets: They’re community hubs. You get to meet the makers while you shop, enjoy live music, grab some Thai green papaya salad, pick up gifts. Just bring a shopping list, or you might end up with a tote full of body butter and sea asparagus pesto. But perhaps that’s a good thing, after all.
Illustration: Kim Sielbeck