BY LESLIE HARRIS O’HANLON
SPECIAL TO NHN
Waimea residents and visitors now have a centrally located place where they can buy affordable and local fresh fruits, vegetables, coffee, pastries and other goodies.
The Waimea Mid Week Market recently relocated from Anna Ranch, where it had been for about a year, to Parker Ranch’s Pukalani Stables in the heart of Waimea. The main reasons the market moved to Pukalani Stables is that the location offers more wind protection, ample parking and is easier for patrons to access, said Billy Bergin, founder of the Paniolo Preservation Society (PPS) which holds the lease for the 100-year-old stables that PPS restored.
The market is held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Wednesday. It has been at Pukalani Stables since April 4, and is going strong.
“I am delighted with the mixture of people who come by,” Bergin said. “It’s a steady flow and not a rush of attendees where it’s standing room only. I’m also impressed with the quality of offerings from the people who are concessionaires.”
On a recent Wednesday, the smells of barbecue meat mixed in the air with the aroma of fresh baked pastries, enticing some market visitors to take a seat at picnic tables scattered around the courtyard to eat.
“I love it,” said Waimea resident Aida Marquez, after finishing a quesadilla and a citrus fruit punch. “I love everything here. You can get food here that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Besides a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, vendors sell dozens of unique items – every thing from teriyaki plates, chocolate-dipped mushrooms and baklava, to sun dried tomatoes, steamed taro and mango juice. Other items for sale include container plants for gardens, jewelry made from gemstones from around the world, artwork, koa cutting boards and handmade soaps.
“As we get bigger, we want to include as many unique booths as we can so that when people come back, they’ll say ‘oh my gosh, you didn’t have that last week,’” said David Steiner, owner of Javaloha Coffee in Paauilo and treasurer of the board for the Mid Week Market.
While many vendors sold their wares at the market when it was at Anna Ranch, several new vendors joined the market when it moved to Pukalani Stables. The number of booths has increased from about a dozen to 19 since moving to its new location, Steiner said. Vendors set up their booths under the covered lanai that wraps around the courtyard or in the courtyard itself.
Jennifer Sagert, an owner of Pilialoha Sweets, joined the market when it moved to Pukalani. It has provided a good way for her to promote her new business.
“This is our advertising,” she said. “We have taken a lot of dessert orders from being here. It’s a small market that is going to grow. So it’s exciting to come in at the beginning because we will be here when it get’s bigger.”
Bringing the market closer to the center of town has made more people aware that there is a Wednesday farmer’s market, Steiner said.
“It’s finally on people’s radar,” he said. “It’s within walking distance from Keck, Canada France, the hospital and the shopping centers. A lot of people are coming over to get their greens and fruits. They take their lunch break at the market because it’s nice and outside. They don’t have to be at their lunch room in their office.”
The market also provides an opportunity for people to stock up on their fruits and vegetables in the middle of the week.
“It helps folks who have burned through the lettuce, beets, and carrots they got at a Saturday market,” Steiner said. “By midweek, they are looking at the remnants of what they got on Saturday.”
Having the market at Pukalani Stables is a natural fit, Bergin said, because both the market and the stables showcase the importance of agriculture to the community. Market patrons can visit a small museum at the stables that highlights Waimea’s cowboy and ranching culture.
“The Paniolo Preservation Society celebrates agriculture, whether it is the great ranches of this area and state or the produce and vegetable community of the islands,” Bergin said. “We all share the same purview of preserving our history.”
Seattle resident Terrie Johnston and her friend Diane Ash recently visited the market as part of a plan to attend as many farmer’s markets on the island as they can while on vacation.
“I like the location of it, and I like the feel of being here,” Johnston said. “It’s appropriate for Waimea.”
Waimea is home to two other markets, open on Saturday: the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market and the Waimea Town Market at Parker School. For Roen Hufford the Wednesday market offers another avenue to sell her produce. She also has a stand at the Saturday homestead market and is one of the original founding farmers of that market.
“We have an abundance of items,” she said, while arranging piles of collards, kale and chard in neat rows. “That’s why we are here. Or else we would have to till it under.”
Market planners have exciting future events in store for the community. One event is to coordinate with local organizations to host judged chili and barbecue cook offs. Another idea is to extend the market into the evening hours several times during the year in conjunction with special events held at the stables.
“We want to keep the market fun for people,” Steiner said. “We have to keep it fun and vibrant.”