Hilo farmers sell CSA boxes of produce to survive coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

Hawaii’s largest industry, tourism, is practically non-existent due to the coronavirus. Restaurants have been forced to scale back operations to dine-in only.

As a result, local farmers are also suffering.

“Our numbers tremendously went down, ” said Ala’amoe Keolanui of OK Farms in Hilo.

The Keolanui family lives and works on the farm. Ala’amoe’s daughter Kea said a lot of farmers on the Big Island are hurting.

“A lot of the restaurants and hotels were really sustaining a lot of farms on this island,” she said.

Ala’amoe said OK Farms sells a lot of its crops to restaurants in Hilo, but because of the pandemic, those orders have stopped.

“We sell macadamia nuts, coffee, a whole bunch of citrus’, tropical fruit, spices,” Ala’amoe said.

They also ship to markets on the mainland, but those shipments have also been put on hold.

“The tropical fruit that we grow is primarily sold in Asian markets on the mainland, and those kind of Asian, open markets, are pretty much shuttered,” said Troy Keolanui. “It was scary. We had to adjust,” he added.”

OK Farms reached out to other farmers on the Big Island. They were all in the same boat.

So OK Farms started selling Community Support Agriculture or CSA boxes. Each box contains produce from a number of different Hawaii Island farmers.

“70% of the items in the box are coming from farmers around island,” Kea explained. “We’re working with a lot of customers who have compromised immune systems, are elderly, and it’s really a great option for them instead of going into the grocery store.”

Each week the boxes are different.

“They’ll ask us, ‘What is it?’ We’ll say, ‘These are cloves,’ and then they’ll say, ‘Why are they brown? Because they’re fresh,’ So it’s also introducing foods that some people have never ever seen or tasted before,” Ala’amoe said about why the CSA boxes have been a hit in the community.

OK Farms said it plans on continuing the boxes in the future.

“We want to continue doing it because we’ve had a tremendous amount of people responding,” Ala’amoe said.

Each box costs $25. To order click here.

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