Farms that supply Oahu’s restaurants hope for business boost from dine-in services

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Updated: Jun. 3, 2020 at 5:41 PM HST
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MILILANI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With Oahu eateries allowed to resume dine-in services on Friday, local farmers that supply them are hoping for a boost in sales.

Mari’s Gardens is an 18-acre aquaponics and hydroponics farm in Mililani. The owner used to offer tours and farm-to-table dinners, but the pandemic has led to big changes.

"We were really, really worried when half of our business disappeared overnight," said Fred Lau.

Restaurants, hotels, and cruise ships used to make up 50% of the farm’s sales.

Even with increased revenue from its grocery store clients, Lau had to let some workers go.

“The hardest part was laying off the people, and now, coming back,” he said.

The farm used to grow about 16,000 pounds of lettuce each month.

The production level has dropped to 70%, and the business is trying to estimate what the demand from restaurants will be so workers don’t plant too much.

"We'll ramp up with them so we'll just take our time because overproducing right now, we're going to get stuck with it," said Lau.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau said some members are already seeing an increase in orders coming in, but they're being cautious since eateries will have to seat fewer customers due to social distancing guidelines.

"Our local chefs really utilize local products, but they're not all opening up," said executive director Brian Miyamoto. "They're opening up, some of them, at 50% so we don't expect to fully come back to where we were."

Mari’s Gardens launched an online ordering system with curbside pickup to find buyers for its excess produce.

The farm's market sells vegetables and plants along with products from other small farmers.

“Our community was so supportive. The immediate community as well as the rest of the island were really interested in supporting local,” said Lau.

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