Plant nurseries struggle during pandemic


HONOLULU (KHON2) — While flower shops were able to reopen just before Mother’s Day, many farmers continue to struggle.

When we think of farmers we do mostly think of those who grow the food we eat.

But there are other farmers who provide much needed greenery and color for a variety of customers.

Take a drive through the back roads of Waimanalo.

You can’t miss them.

More than just a handful of large nurseries, many of which cover several acres, and all of which are now struggling.

“I think one of the biggest challenges for us farmers is that were used to dealing with a lot of hardships,” said Waimanalo Agriculture Association President Mark Fukui. “But the coronavirus and the loss of sales is the straw that’s going to break the camels back. It’s like one more thing that we have to deal with.”

Fukui says one positive that’s come out of the pandemic is more individual sales for the nurseries.

People spending time at home who have taken up gardening, or maybe just looking to spruce things up.

Unfortunately that’s just a small part of what keep these large nurseries growing.

“The prime nurseries in Waimanalo have really experienced a coronavirus double edged sword, Fukui said. “Wholesale business, a lot of the landscapers are not coming around much anymore and that constitutes a big portion of my business.”

Another chunk of business that has dried up is something many might not think of.

From conventions and large events to luaus and concerts, nurseries play a major role in helping to create the perfect venue.

“Exactly. At some point in time whether it’s a rental or an installation we do a lot of supplies for that,” Fukui shared.

Put another way, a quiet Waikiki translates into a quiet Waimanalo.

“I think a lot of the nurseries that are tied into the hotel industry, the tourism industry, or even doing displays for restaurants,” said Fukui. “I’ve been hit really hard. And we’ve even notice that a lot of our clients, landscapers have really just been cutting back overall which directly relates to our sales.”

That takes us back to that individual consumer that still can play a critical role in keeping these businesses alive.

“I think maybe people just don’t realize is that a lot of the nurseries in Waimanalo actually support the big box stores,” added Fukui. “So I would just suggest that if you want to support your farmers and you want to buy some plants just come out to Waimanalo and visit some of the nurseries. That way you can communicate directly with them and support them directly. I’m still impressed and I still taken aback with the mountains every day and I’m there six days a week. It’s a great place to be not only can you support a local business but it’s a great view and it’s outdoors so it’s nice.”

Another reason to visit the nurseries beyond the first hand help from the growers is you’ll probably save some money.

Beyond that, it’s just really beautiful back there.

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