By Cheri Smith | Staff Writer

This past Saturday morning, Kapiʻolani Community College farmers market has reopened to the public since closing down during mid-March.

Many locals and tourists filled the parking stalls by 7:30 a.m., and every vendor was occupied with shoppers or waiting in line to order. There was live music playing and new vendors being opened to the public. Usually Lot C of the campus parking is held for the farmers market,  but it was instead moved into Lot B to help vendors spread out. As soon as people stepped into the event, there was security making sure that everyone gets inside one at a time while accessible to using the portable hand sanitizer before entering. 

Donna (right) and Sherry Kawasaki (left) shopped for fresh produce together at Saturday’s reopening of the farmers market. (Photo by Cheri Smith) 

Donna Kawasaki, a 55-year-old who lives in the Kapahulu area, a casual shopper who walks to KCC Farmers market from home has been awaiting to come back.

“Since the close down, I really missed the fresh produce,” Kawasaki said. ”I was excited to hear that it was reopening.” 

To follow the safety precautions, there are signs that notify people that they are not allowed to eat inside the farmers market. As shoppers bought to-go orders, they were allowed to go outside of the farmers market and onto the grass to eat. 

Tourist Camille Bentez, a 24-year-old from Chino Hills, California, comes to KCC farmers market yearly with her family.

“The only thing that’s different is not being able to eat while we’re walking around,” Bentez said. ”It’s not that big of a deal, I’m still enjoying looking at the vendors and listening to the live music.” 

Farmers Market General Manager Megan Kono and Brian Miyamoto Executive Director of Hawai‘i Farm Bureau, explained that during the close down they established a Farm-to-Car program, which is basically an online seller’s market from a drive through pick up at the Blaisdell Center which has served over 4,000 families twice a week.

During this time, farmers have nowhere to sell since most hotels, swap meets, restaurants, and farmers markets are shut down. This helps farmers and vendors who need supplemented help.

“The Hawai‘i Farm Bureau partnered with Hawai‘i Food Bank that bought 1.5 million dollars worth of produce since the pandemic,” Miyamoto said. “They could’ve bought stuff from the mainland but they chose to help the local farmers and ranchers. Thankfully, $200,000 was donated to the farmers. We are extremely grateful and appreciative to have partnership with KCC and the UH system allowing us to reopen.” 

The smoothie vendor Grown Roots, is happy to be back and running again. (Photo by Cheri Smith)

Grown Roots and Li’i Li’i Donuts are family owned vendors that both accommodate with the new safety precautions such as social distancing themselves 6-feet-away from shoppers while using gloves due to the coronavirus. They had a decline of business since the shut down and continued to work with their regular day jobs during the meantime 

Torben Larsen is the manager of Growing Roots smoothie vendor since last August and is also a part-time landscaper who collects the pineapples and coconuts for their vendor.

“To be safe, we make sure everything is clean and fresh. We clean our stations when we prep, then cut and juice before the day of selling, Larsen said. ”Though it is a lot of hard work to start up again, we were excited to reopen with the farmers market because this is our community time and we get to go back into the public and meet the tourists.”

Li’i Li’i Donuts is its first time holding a vendor at KCC Farmers Market. (Photo by Cheri Smith)

Erica Osterman, Owner of Li’i Li’i Doughnuts, have previously held vendors at different famers market locations in the past. This past Saturday marks their first vendor in KCC.

“During close down we have been taking special orders outside of markets for family gatherings or special events. It’s different now, wearing masks, which makes it harder to connect and chat with customers,Osterman said. “It’s our first time holding a vendor here so we’re excited since KCC is a popular market.”