With tourism shut down, farmers are selling direct to consumers. It’s keeping them afloat.

Hawaii farmers are struggling to survive coronavirus pandemic

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three times a week, the Hawaii Farm Bureau’s “Farm to Car” drive-thru farmers’ market distributes fresh produce to hundreds of customers who order the locally grown goods.

The Neal Blaisdell Center site is especially busy.

"Each day is averaging about 300 orders, unique customized orders," said Brian Miyamoto, Hawaii Farm Bureau's executive director.

The Farm Bureau started the program after farmers’ markets closed — and hotels and restaurants stopped ordering because of the state’s shutdown. It’s helped keep many farms going.

“These new innovative approaches to selling local produce such as ‘Farm to Car’ really helped sustain the farmers and gave them a venue to sell their products so they can continue to farm and generate income,” Miyamoto said.

Another project that’s helping farmers has been Oahu Fresh. It operates like a food hub and has seen demand for local produce multiply.

“We’ve been operating for about 10 years now doing an average of 100 to 200 deliveries a week. As of now we’re doing about 1,500 deliveries a week. I think there’s a new appreciation for the value that local farmers, local produce, local food provides,” Oahu Fresh CEO Matt Johnson said.

The situation also shows how fragile Hawaii’s food security can be. Without a steady stream of income, farmers can’t afford seed or pay for labor and leases.

"If they're not going to be able to plant today we may not have food in several weeks, several months, or even several years depending on what crop they're growing," Miyamoto said.

Farm to Car has helped the state avoid that scenario.

The Farm Bureau wants to continue the program even after the pandemic subsides. The potential's there to add more sites and help more local growers connect to consumers.

"Any opportunity that we can give to our local farmers and ranchers to sell direct to the consumer is a great thing," Miyamoto said.

To learn more about Farm to Car, click here. For information about Oahu Fresh, click here.

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