Friday, November 11, 2011

Squeezing Out the Little Guy

At 11:00 AM Wednesday, November 9, 2011, the management of The Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort promptly asked the vendors at the Ho'oulu Community Farmer's Market to pack up and leave four hours ahead of schedule. Hotel staff informed each vendor that an anonymous caller informed them that they did not have the right zoning for a farmer's market. The same market that just celebrated its first year anniversary last Wednesday, is now in jeopardy of being shut down. This news did not bode well in the market and a slow defiance began to build. Announcements were made but no one moved, this morning on the foot of Hualalai, a group of farmers, artisans, and patrons lost something dear to them.

For the farmer who works five days a week in the field and the other two days selling produce at the market, the decision decreased their weekly income by half. For artisans who makes their products here on the Big Island, they just lost one of the last two markets in Kona that will not accept products made off island (the other market is the South Kona Green Market). For the patrons that frequent the market, they have lost a place to get their locally grown, organic produce as well as the opportunity to shop for products that are made locally. Colin Gould of Kailua Kona said, "We're in the food business and we're faithful patrons of this wonderful venue, it would be disappointing and heartbreaking if this market is shut down, but sounds to me like politics as usual."

The General Manager of the Keauhou Beach Resort declined to comment about the events. There are a number of theories that started to circulate but Kumu Keala Ching who helped found the market, has no time for such talk "As long as it's from the heart and a benefit to the people it will work out and this market is important to the community." Thirty-two small businesses rely heavily on the market for income and today those families were informed that this holiday season they will have to establish a new way to pay the bills. Karen Kriebl of South Kona said, "In a tough economy it's important for small businesses and farmers to have a venue to promote their products." The issue also touches countless others who rely on the market for nourishment and others who shop there to lower their carbon foot print.

After a three hour breakdown, the people of the Ho'oulu Community Farmer's Market left with more questions than answers. Who was the anonymous caller who threatened the mighty Keauhou Beach Resort and prompted the shutdown of the vendor's livelihoods? Why can't anyone give them a straight answer on how to fix the problem? Will the community sit idly by and watch as the powers that be continue to squeeze the little man out of the picture. The answers to these questions may not save the beloved market but they will shed light on a growing divide between those that have the power and those that don't.

Over the next week a group of vendors from the market will be exploring all their options for the future. If you would like to show support for the market please email your local councilmen and ask them to support local markets that only offer made in Hawaii and grown in Hawaii products.

Duke M Kell.