It’s not everyday you have the opportunity to shop at a Kauai farmers market on an actual working farm. This food-centric ahupuaa is the charm of the Waipa Farmers Market. Driving through the wooden gate onto an ample lawn fronting the market is just a small piece of the pie.
Fruit bearing trees line the gravel road that leads to a community space. The building features a rich library, large glass-paned doors and is used for community meetings and visiting school groups. Across a covered walkway, market vendors and community members can make value added products to sell in the DOH, state certified kitchen that also acts as a small business incubator. The kitchen is used every Thursday, affectionately referred to as poi day, to cook, grind, and mix kalo (taro) into poi. This is an initiative that was started around 30 years ago to keep poi and kalo easily accessible and affordable. “We’re a farm and garden foremost”, states former market manager Lanae Anakalea, and nothing goes to waste here.
Waipa has partnerships with a few local lawn guys who trim and cut coconut trees. The mulch is dropped off in piles and left to break down. Waste water collected from kalo cleaning on poi day is sprayed onto the mulch piles creating rich, nutrient dense soil for the valley gardens. In the past, kids attending enrichment programs would sift through the soil, clear out the chunky particles and compete to find the biggest worms. Before the pandemic, residents and visitors could volunteer their time pulling weeds, hauling forest debris, clearing invasive species, and planting native trees at monthly community workdays
Waipa foundation is an independent non-profit organization that leases it’s land from Bishop Estate. Their ahupuaa, a traditional Hawaiian land division that typically includes a watershed and runs from the mountain to the ocean, is 1,600 acres. The lower 100 acres is actively maintained on a day-to-day basis and include gardens, groves, pig pens, lo’i kalo, private campsites, hale (house) to store canoes, and the venue for the farmers market.
Vendors are the pot of gold under rainbow colored tents. You can find everything from ice cold coconuts to fluffy frosted cupcakes here. There are buckets full of tropical bouquets to brighten rough quarantine days. A young, local crafter weaves papale niu (a sun hat woven from coconut fronds) that is a much needed summer accessory. She also creates resin coated cutting boards that look like they have been dipped in the frothy waves of Hanalei Bay.
For Goodness Cakes 808 utilizes the on-site certified kitchen to prepare ‘take and bake’ chicken pot pies and veggie curry pies. In addition, hot and ready meat or veggie hand pies and delectable cupcakes are also up for grabs.
Kauai Kunana Dairy offers up chunky crunchy granola, lilikoi bread, and their signature goat cheese. You like spicy? They’ve got a Hawaiian Pepper Jacques chevre that will bring the heat. M.Y. Kauai Honey Co. is directly across the lawn. They sell raw, natural honey in 3 varying jar sizes to suit all needs. Also available, propolis tinctures and soothing salves, soap bars and beeswax wraps that make great additions to your cupboards. Certainly, the ginger hibiscus tea looks to be the farm favorite everyone enjoys.
Summer season cannot be more abundant with pitaya (dragonfruit), bananas of all varieties, and green and ripe papayas. Along with, white pineapples, massive mangos, carrots, and ginger stalks. Chikoo, cherimoya, purple okra and jackfruit make up the exotic fare not typically found in stores.
The community shows up masked and ready to do their weekly shopping. Friends greet eachother kindly and smiles can be heard in their voices. Mothers and their children, dogs and their masters, families young and old arrive with a spring in their step and a sturdy market bag waiting to be filled.
It looks like most people come directly off the beach from a mid-day swim to scope out the produce. A shopper leaves the market with her arms full to the brim holding one of everything and sums it up perfectly, “overflowing”. The stewards of Waipa and its partnering community prove that this Kauai farmers market is abundant and able to feed our stomachs and our hearts.
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