Farmers’ markets running under new rules, helping farmers

Coronavirus

You probably already noticed the dramatic changes in shopping at grocery stores. Farmers’ Markets are also making modifications. They sometimes draw large crowds. But since the pandemic, they’re not the same anymore and some have even shut down.

The Windward Mall Farmers Market made a comeback and re-opened this month. It’s now outside with only 11 vendors, a cut back from 35. Organizers made sure tents and people were spaced out.

“We took our most essential vendors so all of our farmers/produce vendors and some of our long time standing food providers and we brought the market back,” said operator Dillan Hanawahine.

In Mililani, the farmers’ market is set up to grab and go. No more seating areas or music to enjoy.

“We have hand sanitizing stations all over the place. We are asking our vendors to wear masks and gloves,” said Brian Miyamoto of the Hawaii Farm Bureau.

While vendors are working under new guidelines, markets like these help provide income for farmers.

“They’ve lost a lot of sales when they were going directly to restaurants because the restaurant ordering is down,” said Hanawahine.

“Food is an essential need, so we want to make sure that we keep the farmers farming produce enough food in order to do that they do need to make an income,” said Miyamoto.

For the family running Manny’s Bakeshop, some relief was found at Windward.

“As a family business we don’t have a current paycheck because we lost a lot of revenue,” said Emil Pagala. “We probably cannot pay our rent and mortgage so it’s a good thing we have this market.”

And there are customers willing to help.

“I know how important it is to support local and to have these local businesses here is really important for us to be self-sustaining,” said Krista Labanon of Kahaluu. “It’s safer, I feel safer out here than I do at the store.”

Here’s another sign of the times: crowds of shoppers lining up outside stores. Since last week, Foodland tells us it has directed its stores to monitor the number of customers coming in. The number varies. At a place like Foodland Farms Ala Moana, about 75 patrons would be allowed in at a time.

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