Written By Viola Gaskell
The Wednesday Farmers Market at Oskie Rice Arena is a relaxed, covered market where vendors sell fresh produce, natural medicines, eggs, green juices and soups, fresh sourdough bread, crystals, and equally unique and delicious citrus, mango, and atemoya — a hybrid of the sugar apple (sweetsop) and cherimoya.
“I feel so lucky that my grocery shopping is a puppy playdate,” says Pasha, a regular who’s been shopping at farmers markets for 30 years. “Ryans’s veggies are like a whole supermarket,” she says of Ryan Earehart’s Okoʻa Farms stall, “and there are usually eggs, and puppies.”
The market started as a drive-through pickup operation in March of 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread through Hawaiʻi. “Farmers had food rotting in the fields, so we said, ʻof course you can do a market here,’” says market manager Maile Masada. Nearly six months later, regulations eased and customers were able to get out of their cars and peruse the market in person rather than preselecting their items on their phones. A few months in, a pre-existing group of vendors who were previously located at Poʻokela Church moved back down the road to the church, but Maile says she decided to keep the Oskie market going because there were a number of vendors who wanted to stay. “Weʻll keep doing this as long as there’s a need in the community,” she says.
As director of the Oskie Rice facility, Maile is the de facto manager of the Wednesday Farmers Market, but she says the market “pretty much runs itself.” A tight-knit group of vendors set up every Wednesday morning and others come and go. With no contracts and a simple $20 booth fee, from week to week there might be anywhere from three to a dozen vendors. Masada is considering moving the market to a weekday evening and opening it up to live music to give Upcountry residents the option to shop for local goods after work and perhaps enjoy an early dinner and music on the lawn while they’re at it. But for now, it sticks to its morning ritual.
Okoʻa Farms sells a wide variety of organic produce from Kula-grown broccoli to oyster mushrooms grown up Olinda road and Ono Organic Farms’ bananas grown in Kipahulu. Okoʻa customer Devon Frederickson, who cooks for retreats and frequents all of the upcountry markets, says of Ryan, “I’ve watched his kids grow up, I’ve seen them on the farm, I’ve seen them here, and I like that—I like buying from a real family farm.”
Ryan says he started farming with the intention of growing enough food for his family, but as the amount of food growing at Okoʻa increased, his goal expanded to feeding his community. “When I started the farmers market the response was instantaneously, ʻYes, please come back,’ and so we’ve never missed a market since,” he says of his years at the Saturday Upcountry Farmers Market. From there he started selling at the Oskie market, the Wailea Village Market and the Market at Queen Kaʻahumanu Center.
The Okoʻa stand accepts SNAP (food stamps) and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons and participates in Da Bux, a program that gives EBT users half off on local fresh produce while still paying farmers full price.
Ash of Maui Grown Organics sells an impressive assortment of medicinal and self-care oriented products from “medicinal mushroom fruit leathers” to teas and sleep tinctures and “Maui Lokelani rose ritual oil.” Ash, who says she eats exclusively local food, says she loves being at this market in particular because of its strong local customer base. “It’s an actual community here,” she says, “I have people who come every week for medicines that are really important for them, like some people come for lion’s mane for insulin control to manage their diabetes.”
Farmer and vendor John Pollock of Rancho Relaxzo, a five acre permaculture farm in Kula, sells “more than organic” eggs, honey, fruits, avocados, juices, and inventive homemade snacks including avocado pudding and macadamia nut pate: a mixture of macadamia nuts, mushrooms, onions, spices, and other savory organic ingredients.
Some shoppers make dual stops at the Wednesday Farmers Market at Poʻokela church down the road, and the Oskie market. “I love the vendors at both markets, so I just go back to back,” says market goer Allan Billinsky, who buys herbal products from Ash. Another shopper, Marluy, a private chef, says she stops at the Poʻokela market to see what some of the smaller farmers have in store, then makes her way up to the Oskie market to fill in any gaps at the Okoʻa stand. “I love the seasonality of getting everything at the markets — I don’t do Costco,” she says. “Today I found purple bok choi and organic strawberries. Sometimes there is a local fisherman here — it’s great.”
The Wednesday Farmers Market at Oskie Rice Arena, Wednesdays 8am-1pm
521 Olinda Rd, Makawao, HI 96768
Want your farmers market highlighted on our blog?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org