Local Harvest / Island Fresh: Maui Mobile Market on a Mission

Written By Viola Gaskel

Local Harvest distributor and food advocate, Steve Phillips, thinks everyone has a say when it comes to Maui’s food security. It’s true that the vast majority of food here is imported, but the amount of food being grown and the number of small farms operating on Maui and throughout Hawaiʻi is increasing, and that is enough to give Steve and his wife Ana hope. 

“Everybody has to get on board,” Steve says. “All the buyers of food on the Island have to get onboard, and when you go to a restaurant or a store or a farmers market, you push the idea, you ask for it. The demand has to start with the people, the customers. If anyone thinks they don’t have the power to do this — they do, they have the power.”

Since he started aggregating and distributing local food in 2011, around 100 businesses have gotten onboard with Steve and his team at Local Harvest, his company’s wholesale arm. Island Fresh Delivery, the direct-to-consumer counterpart launched in 2014, delivers boxes of fresh produce and value-added products to more than 250 homes per week throughout the island. What began with Steve driving around in the morning picking up produce from farms in his minivan and driving it to restaurants in the afternoons has resulted in a 3,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Kahului with a skilled team of packers and drivers, two commercial kitchens, and a developed network of more than 100 farmers and food producers.

Local Harvest / Island Fresh source from farms on four islands, including Kumu Farms, known for its non-GMO SunRise Papaya; Evonuk Farms, a partly solar-powered farm that grows a variety of  herbs and leafy greens; and Ho Farms, which specializes in Japanese produce like cucumbers, opo (long) squash, and colorful cherry tomatoes. Alongside more established farms, Local Harvest also sources from new farmers and residents with a few fruit trees in their backyard. “It all helps to move our Islands toward self-reliance in our food supply,” Steve says. 

While Local Harvest focuses on wholesale customers, Island Fresh customers can sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership, where they select a weekly or biweekly box of seasonal produce that is either: exclusively vegetable, fruit and vegetable, or geared for juicing. The boxes vary by size and price from $30 to $60, and customers can add or remove specific fruits or veggies from the week’s selection through their online account. Add-ons include macadamia nuts, Kona sea salt, and Maui CBD Collective products with free pickup locations twice a week or opt for delivery for just $5 bucks! 

Steve says he and Ana eat about 90 percent local, and much of the remaining ten percent is made up of grains and beans that are often hard to come by in the islands. However, he’s been working with a researcher at University of Hawaiʻi on an initiative called “the bean project,” to determine what kinds of beans grow well in Hawaiʻi and which beans have a market here. “It turns out there are 15 to 20 bean varieties that grow well here!” he says. If the project secures funding to help farmers grow and harvest the selected beans in larger quantities, the Phillips, and other Hawaiʻi residents will be able to move closer to a 100 percent local diet. 

In 2014, he and Ana started the Napili Farmers Market, where alongside other vendors, they sell Local Harvest produce and goods from their prepared foods company, Sattvic Kitchen. Through Local Harvest, thousands of dollars worth of produce have gone towards feeding Maui’s homeless population, in part through the nonprofit Hungry Homeless Heroes, to whom they donated a van to boost their meal delivery capacity. Between the two distribution businesses and the market, Steve says they moved about 1.5 million pounds of local produce in 2021! Hop on board and enjoy the fresh and local harvest from Maui county. 

The Details: 

Island Fresh, (for individuals & households)
Pre-orders only, Islandwide Delivery Wednesdays and Saturdays https://www.islandfreshdelivery.com/home, (808) 664-1129

Local Harvest, (wholesale)
Pre-orders only, Pickup Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10am-2pm
320 Hukilike Street, 4-A Kahului, HI 96732
https://www.localharvesthawaii.com/
(808) 633-5060, steve@localharvesthawaii.com

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