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Fresh produce, Maui-made products draw shoppers to farmers markets

In addition to growing organic greens, Hong Zhou plays American folk songs and movie themes on an instrument called an erhu, which is a two-string Chinese violin. AYA GANZ photos

Local farmers and food artisans can be found at farmers markets from Hana to West Maui. Here’s the story behind some of the entreprenuers I recently spoke with at farmers markets on the island:

Kyle and Bina Fisher operate Graze and Sprout Farm in Makawao. It’s a small-scale organic farm with a focus on heirloom tomatoes and microgreens. They do sourdough bread for the market and organic bagels. Kyle does the whole barley malt wash then boil, all in the morning before the market. They also sell frozen sourdough pizza dough. Microgreens are always in season; sunflower, rainbow red radish, fenugreek, cilantro, basil and green pea. They add worm castings and mineral amendments to their soil, so it’s really healthy and vital. They also do rotational grazing with their sheep and chickens.

Hong Zhou serves up organic greens at farmers markets. At his certified organic farm, he grows mizuna, tatsoi, arugula, green mustard, three kinds of lettuce, red Russian kale and more. He humbly admits that besides farming he has few skills. But he plays American folk songs and movie themes on an instrument called an erhu, which is a two-string Chinese violin. This magical instrument in Hong’s hands sets the tone at farmer’s markets he visits.

Sisters Janet and Judy Simpson, and Gerry Ross own Kupa’a Farms. Kupa’a Farm sits at the 2,000 foot elevation of Haleakala. What drew me to their table was coffee. They harvest their own beans. It was really an amazing cup. Super smooth and aromatic. Their table was laden with papaya, lilikoi, lilikoi spread, avocados, cabbage, broccoli, beans, and homemade kimchi and sauerkraut. Janet and Judy’s father started their farm in 1974. Eleven years ago, they planted cacao and are just beginning to harvest now. Their goal is to start processing their own cacao into chocolate. They also grow beautiful spices like vanilla and cardamon. They invite people to come to their farm. If you want to volunteer, they exchange food for the help. For more on Kupa’a Farm, visit www.kupaafarms.org.

Ryan Earheart of Oko’a Farms manages about 28 acres of farmland and raises about 80 different crops. Oko’a Farms grows a large variety of fresh greens, root vegetables and fruits. Farmers markets are just one of their avenues to “get food into people’s mouths. They also sell to restaurants and chefs, retail locations and home deliveries.

Hope Reborn and her partner Joshua Gerald bring deserts to Maui farmers markets from Kipahulu. Selections include chocolates and raw pies as well as jun, fruits and other treats.

“This is my day off, how I connect with the community,” said Ryan at a recent farmer’s market in Kula. “The reason that I’m here is to connect the dot between growing the food and who’s consuming it. The best interface for that is at the farmer’s market. It’s my favorite way to sell our food.”

Hope Reborn and her partner Joshua Gerald bring the most glorious deserts to farmers markets from Kipahulu. They create chocolates and raw pies as well as jun, fruits and other treats. Their pies feature seasonal ingredients such as jack fruit, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, cacao, mac nuts, vanilla, rose, and coconut. Their chocolates are made with local flavors like exotic durian and heavenly peppermint. You can tell they put large doses of love into everything they serve. Hope and Josh are available for private parties.

We are lucky to live on this fertile island where anything grows, with people who love to farm. At Maui’s farmers markets, you can meet wonderful people who rejoice in growing food and eating what’s local. There are so many more wonderful foods and farms. I will be back to a farmers market soon for more.