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FARM DAY

WRITTEN BY DENISE LAITINEN

IT’S AN IMPORTANT TIME TO EXPERIENCE VISITING A FARM

ON A RECENT VISIT TO THE MAINLAND, someone suggested buying groceries at the Dollar store. As a long-time food writer and avid supporter of local farmers, I was dumbfounded. Another friend then described how there are no grocery stores near where she lives and farmers markets are few and far between. 

It got me thinking how very fortunate we are to live in Hawaii. Yes, it’s true that (too) much of our food is imported. Yet Hawaii’s agricultural industry is a key part of our local economy. The Aloha State leads the nation in production acreage of macadamia nuts, papaya, passion fruit, taro, coffee, pineapple, bananas, and ginger root. And the number of farms in Hawaii continues to grow, increasing 5 percent to 7,328 farms in 2017 compared to 2012, according to USDA Census of Agriculture data. 

Living on Hawai’i Island also known as the Big Island, there are nearly half a dozen farmers markets near me where I can get fresh local produce. When I go to a local restaurant and ask where the beef is from, more often than not they can name the specific ranch – and it’s local and one I personally know. 

It’s this ability to know where your food is from as well as explore local farms and learn how food is grown, harvested and made, that makes me so excited for the seventh annual edible Hawaiian Islands Farm Day on Saturday May 16, 2020 – #EHIFarmDay20. This is a statewide social media event in which anyone can participate. You can even participate in other parts of the country – or the world. Every year I make it a point to visit a local farm, go on a farm tour, and/or shop at a farmers market. For me, it’s an opportunity to ask myself, ‘What do I want to learn this year? What foods do I want to explore?’

It’s super easy to participate in #EHIFARMDAY20. All you have to do is invite family and friends to SHOP at a farmers’ market, VISIT a farm, TAKE a farm tour, THANK a farmer, and SHARE what you experience on social media using the hash tag #EHIFarmDay20. 

Making it even easier – you can find the HAWAII FARM GUIDE inserted in the 2020 Spring issue or on the edible Hawaiian Islands website. 

During past Farm Days I’ve gone to local farmers markets and talked to different vendors. If they could not name where the food was grown that they were selling– I didn’t buy from them. For the most part though, I’ve found local farmers to be passionate about the food they grow. They want to tell you how they grow their produce and what makes it special. 

Shopping at your local farmers market means the food is fresher, in season, and offered in greater variety. Knowing where your food is grown not only adds a sense of security about food safety but also keeps money in our local economy. 

Other years during #EHIFarmDay, I’ve gone on farm tours and learned how vanilla extract is made (so easy to make yourself once you know how!) and how turmeric is grown. I think the thing that amazes me the most is how chocolate is made. Last year I toured a cacao farm and I still find it incredible that those odd-looking cacao pods can create a substance as rich and delicious as dark velvety chocolate. 

To me, #EHIFarmDay is food adventure day. I can’t wait to go on another adventure exploring farms during this year’s event. What will you explore during #EHIFarmDay20?