Farmers’ Markets in Hawai‘i: A Local/Global Nexus” in Food and Power in Hawai‘i: Visioning Food Democracy
From Wal-Mart superstores to farmers’ markets, there is a spectrum of food purchasing and distribution options in Hawai‘i. This range includes warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club; supermarkets like Foodland, Safeway, and Times Supermarket; gourmet stores like Whole Foods; mom and pop stores and health food stores like Down to Earth; food cooperatives like Kokua Market; both large and small “ethnic” markets and convenience stores; community-supported agriculture (CSA) and various types of farmers’ markets all over the islands. While national and international supermarket chains dominate the retail markets, the popularity of local food has resulted in the expansion of direct-sale outlets like farmers’ markets. The call for localization of food resonates with environ-mental movements in Hawai‘i. Due to Hawai‘i’s geographic isolation as a chain of islands in the middle of the North Pacific, a large proportion of our food supply comes through shipping and air cargo. While food purchased on the US mainland travels an average of 1,500 miles, Hawai‘i’s food travels an average of 2,500 miles (Leung and Loke 2008).
This chapter considers farmers’ markets as alternative food institutions in Hawai‘i. It uses farmers’ markets as a lens through which we view the special location (both geographic and metaphorical) of Hawai‘i. As a post-colonial state, a generally poor and isolated indigenous population coexists with large numbers of visitors to the islands and divergent settler populations in Hawai‘i, each with particular food interests. Finally, it ex-amines the relationship between consumers and producers/vendors within the variety of the Hawai‘i farmers’ markets in order to provide clarity on how farmers’ markets can potentially serve as a political tool to address agricultural issues in Hawai‘i.
In examining the variations of farmers’ markets and their accomplishments, this chapter critically assesses their role in the pursuit of food democracy. While farmers’ markets are often celebrated as a step towards improving the local food system, their contributions to farm security, food security, and consumer awareness and mobilization also vary considerably. The case from Hawai‘i highlights the conflicts in farmers’ markets such as the tension between improving farmers’ income and serving low-income communities, being a space for local community or catering to well-paying tourists. The chapter ends with a discussion of how to address some of these tensions.