September 26, 2009

Kaiser Permanente farmers markets in Hawaii

I write from Honolulu having had the opportunity to visit 3 of the 4 KP markets and meet with various groups of wonderful people.  Wherever I went, there were warm and friendly people who seemed to almost be family with each other.  And they all seemed to come to work to make someone's life better.  They each bring their own passion and expertise to offer and then one woman weaves all this together.  Her name is Ashlyn Izumo.  A good force of nature, Ashlyn went out on her own 5 years ago and just started finding vendors who would be willing to come to her hospital to start a market.  She had to learn everything about permits, health department regulations, and market management.  She put committees together, asked colleagues to be site coordinators, and got solid leadership support.  I was just with her for two days and basically never was allowed to stop.  Ashlyn ---- I thank you for what you do for so many people every day.

Each of markets had a mix of fresh produce, prepared foods, flowers, and other services.  Coming out of the parking structure at the Moanalua Medical Center, KP's big hospital, the first vision was a very long row of beautiful fruits and vegetables with lots of shoppers squeezing various things.  The makings for fresh mango salsa were all right there--- mangoes, cilantro, limes, and radishes.  Souk, the farmer from Pit Farm, has four acres.  He and his wife sell at only three farmers' markets because they need the time to farm.  They come to two KP markets and the big Honolulu market on Saturdays that features only local foods.  Because of the growing conditions in Hawaii, vendors at some of the markets resell some product that has been shipped in.  Souk told me it's too warm to grow broccoli on Oahu so he gets it from a family member on Maui.  He can only come to three markets because he needs the other four days to farm.  His food grows well but it takes a full day for him and his wife to dig out the weeds from just one long row of vegetables.

I visited his location at the big community market also and was happy to see all the shoppers buying the fruits of his family's labors.  I had given him a copy of the Eating Well in Season cookbook and he had already tried the mango salsa using all of his own produce.  His wife, Tracy, reported it was excellent.  When I get back to a kitchen, I will make some and share the recipe with you.