Haleiwa Farmers Market asked to vacate


[Update 4/13]: Haleiwa Farmers Market will be open this Sunday. DOT is allowing the market to continue operations through the end of the month while the owners find a new suitable home in Haleiwa.

The Department of Transportation has asked Haleiwa Farmers' Market (HFM) to cease and desist, according to Pamela Boyar, who founded the market with Annie Suite.  The DOT cited Section 264-101 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes— "Vending from highways is prohibited"—a statute that is only being invoked three years into HFM's run.

Haleiwa Farmers Market has been one of my favorite markets since it opened in 2009, with vendors including Tin Roof Ranch, which raises fresh eggs and chickens, and Mohala Farms, which sells organic vegetables and greens. I don't doubt that if the HFM owners are forced to leave their current location (on the Joseph P. Leong Bypass), they could find another in Haleiwa, but in the meantime, crops still need to be harvested and the chickens are still laying.

Nat Bletter, who first started selling bean-to-bar Madre Chocolates at HFM says, "So many of us local food producers will not be able to survive without this market."

Boyar says, "This is about community. This is about local. It's about farmers … It's about our administration wanting to support sustainable agriculture, while putting 20 farmers out of business. Where's the business in that?"

Biting Commentary is still waiting for a response from DOT. Check back for updates.

For updates from HFM, check out their Facebook page.

[Update 4/11 4:25 p.m.]: Biting Commentary just received word from the State Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says they did not issue a "cease and desist" letter, but a letter to vacate the premises because of the state's liability risk with the market operating in a highway right of way.

Meisenzahl says the DOT has been working with HFM since 2009, allowing them to operate rent-free on the Joseph P. Leong Bypass, not realizing that the area is still considered a highway right of way. It was only recently, when the DOT and HFM were working together on unrelated issues that the DOT asked for legal opinions from the Attorney General's office and the Attorney General discovered that the bypass is still a highway right of way. As DOT issues the permit for HFM, the DOT and state would liable should anything happen at the markets.

"We've been working with the organizers for some time now," Meisenzahl says. "Helping farmers was something we thought was a great idea … But because of this liability, we had to stop … Our hands are tied on this issue."