It’s a gorgeous morning at Grove Farm Market and cars line the entire square of the Lihue farmers market! Vendors fill the large, grassy field with tents, tables, and every type of food and beverage item imaginable. It’s the epitome of island abundance and everyone from the community is here to take their fill.
Across the highway is Kauai Community College who used to host the Lihue farmers market. But because of COVID, that market shutdown. Farmers were left without an established and well-attended market. Fear, dismay and confusion set in and then a spark ignited. A group of Grove Farm farmers, in particular, were the inspiration for this new market — Puhi Park Produce.
Grove farm owns 37,000 acres total, including Puhi park, and leases thousands of acres of farming land. With the closing of the farmers markets and their farmers facing disaster Grove Farm gathered their team and discussed what they could do to help. First, they considered the CSA Box idea and inevitably decided it would be too difficult. Instead, they opted to utilize their land and host the new Lihue farmers market.
Grove Farm Market currently hosts the largest amount of vendors (45 give or take) on the island free of charge. Nikki Ige, Grove Farm Market Manager, and her fellow employees went above and beyond inviting and welcoming as many vendors as they could safely fit into the venue. For someone who has admittedly never really shopped at farmers markets in the past, Nikki has done an exceptional job with executing and organizing a very impressive market.
“We really appreciate that Grove Farm has it [the market] for us. That’s been helping us a lot, its the most money we’ve made throughout this pandemic. Not a lot of farmers really have the customers and this market gives us the best.”Belle Meephol, Daughter of Grove Farm farmer Watchara Meephol
The vendors all greet Nikki lovingly and the feeling is mutual. Happy farmers grow happy food. And boy, is there food! Mounds of wingbeans, sweet potatoes, and bittermelons lay alongside basil, mint and cilantro. Boxes full of ripe guava, 3 for $1, infuse the air with its sweet aroma. There are stalks of lemongrass, ginger root, and green onion, as well as, bags of curly kale, arugula, and tomatoes. One vendor offers great deals, 3 generous bundles of any vegetable on the table for $5 and you can mix and match! Pumpkins, cauliflower, and huge heads of lettuce stacked side-by-side. A truck full of watermelons attracts a line and the farmer is well-known for growing a sweet, yellow variety that quickly sells out. Pops of tropical flower colors fill buckets and give tents a celebratory look.
The biggest draw to this Lihue farmers market is the fishermen. Two separate vendors draw huge crowds hours before the market opens. Lines instantly appear the moment the fishermen are set up and the fish sell out in less than an hour. The fishermen sell their fish whole and by cutting out the middle man are able to offer the community wholesale prices on the freshest of fish. It’s a remarkable idea and currently no other farmers market on Kauai has a fish vendor – let alone two!
Midnight Bear Bakery is also present slangin’ luscious organic sourdough breads and local fruit-filled pastries. Haole Girl Island Sweets makes the best stuffed croissants, a favorite being the goat cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomato. And their cinnamon, macadamia nut sticky bun is sinfully delicious. Kauai Nectar Co. gather the most gorgeous honey comb and are the islands only fresh source of local bee pollen. They also have spreadable crystallized honeys mixed with other delightful ingredients like Hawaiian sea salt and Italian white truffle oil.
Ha Coffee Bar uses their storefront to can and bottle their signature cold-brew coffees and lattes made with oat milk for sale at the market. And don’t forget to stop by the Kauai Sugarloaf Pineapple tent for your Phrosty made with 100% sweet, sun-ripened pineapple. It’s a joyful dairy-free treat with no added sugar.
If you’re looking for the best this island has to offer from some of the most generous and loving farmers and vendors stop by the Grove Farm Market and plan to stay awhile. The market is magnificent.
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