Let’s Bring More Local Food To Local Tables - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Kathi Saks

Kathi Saks was born and raised outside New York City. She has a BFA in surface pattern design from Syracuse University, a culinary degree from California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and was a textile designer for over 20 years. She has lived in Hawaii for over 12 years and is now retired and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International Hawaii Chapter.


Due to the pandemic and the need for most of us to stay at home as well as the lack of tourists, a wonderful symbiotic relationship has occurred.

Before our lives changed so abruptly many of us shopped for local produce at either the farmer’s markets or maybe the few grocery stores which carried it. Now there are several farms and local businesses selling directly to families on every island.

None of these farms are as huge as the ones you would find on the mainland. In fact most of them are small, many are organic and managed by just a few people working hard and struggling to make a living.

But now due to our circumstances many people know about businesses such as FarmLink, Oahu Fresh and CSA’s (Community Sponsored Agriculture) delivering boxes directly from farms like MAʻO Farms and Kahumana Farms to name a few.

Mao farms fresh vegetables.

It’s high time to have a conversation about growing more of our local food, like vegetables at MAʻO Farms, above.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

As our islands’ restaurants slowly open up, some of this wonderfully fresh produce will of course go back to the restaurants. But the conversation from the past of how to make our islands sustainable and how to have food for ourselves, beyond the four or five days which is so often written about, is a conversation which I believe we all need to be engaged in.

As a retired chef, someone who eats mostly local whether it’s produce, meat, fish and poultry, I think now is a good time to start talking about how we can expand on how to support these businesses and others like them.

Calculating Costs

A recent article in The New York Times by famed journalist Thomas Friedman speaks of globalization being just one of the causes of what is now upon us. The incredibly long and tenuous link we have all constructed does not serve us as it may have. It may just in fact be one of the great factors hampering our success and sustainability.

Share Your Ideas

The ongoing conversation of local (everything), particularly food, being more expensive is true. But the cost of tourism is not always calculated in direct dollars or the impact on our island resources.

The cost of the 10 million tourists per year is not sustainable (pre-pandemic figures). Clearly tourism is hurting the environment and having such a high percentage of our population catering to this expanding number is dangerous as we are quite aware of now. If we lose what makes us so beautiful, don’t we to lose our hospitality and jobs?

It’s time to talk about how to make it happen.

Farmers and ranchers need access to land and financial support (for infrastructure, meeting health and safety regulations, for expansion — land purchase/leasing, community outreach, value added products, to name a few).

People need jobs that do not rely solely on tourism and clearly there is a need and desire for locally produced food beyond what we previously had thought. What could be more basic?

It’s a huge step forward for the future as (however), local food prices will come down and while investing in our love for and of the aina. Being true stewards of what sustains us is here and now.

It’s time to talk about how to make it happen. I invite you to join the conversation.


Read this next:

Building A Post-COVID Oceans Economy For Hawaii 


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About the Author

Kathi Saks

Kathi Saks was born and raised outside New York City. She has a BFA in surface pattern design from Syracuse University, a culinary degree from California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and was a textile designer for over 20 years. She has lived in Hawaii for over 12 years and is now retired and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International Hawaii Chapter.


Latest Comments (0)

How many homes and apartment buildings have no food growing on or in them? Anybody can grow a papaya tree so is it zoning and CC&Rs that are the cause of so much lawn and so little food? Save money and eat healthier by growing whichever calories you can.

bigihi · 4 weeks ago

Yes, I believe in buying local and I do frequent the farmer's markets regularly.  It just seems that I am paying more for local goods and produce at these farmer's markets.  It used to be a cheap venue to get fresh produce and goods.  In this day of the pandemic theses vendors should rethink their pricing because as times go on the consumers will have less to spend.

Westocohfd · 1 month ago

Although I know you’re referring to tourism in relation to the service industry it is also relevant in the farming/agriculture and local food price context. Most locally produced food are sold to market’s that cater to tourism such as hotels, high end grocery stores, and restaurants that all service a majority of tourist. These tourist servicing markets pay pretty pennies for locally grown products and can more than afford too because the high cost of it is supplemented by tourist dollars/spending. Herein lies the problem with the cost of agriculture produced in Hawaii. When the products are sold to the local market (kama’aina) the farmers/producers expect to make a profit equal or comparable to tourist prices (prices that are paid by hotels, restaurants, high end grocery stores, tourist servicing markets). 

GoldenRuleUpholder · 1 month ago

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