Open markets on Oahu take a hit thanks to rat lungworm fears
WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kahumana Organic Farms is a produce grower that sells at Farmlovers Markets five open markets on Oahu.
Even though there have been no cases of rat lungworm on Oahu, fear about the disease is hurting sales for growers of leafy greens.
"It has affected our farmers markets. Kale sales have been down about 30 percent and that's a shame because the best thing about a farmers market is you know who's growing your food. You can be there to talk to the farmer and ask them what their growing practices are," Farmlovers development director Pamela Boyar said.
Kahumana's open market sales are down about ten percent. That's significant for a small grower. Sales to restaurants and hotels are also off.
"There's so many barriers for farmers already, whether it's the environment, the weather, then the rain, and now you got the pest issue," Kahumana's Christian Zuckerman said.
Kahumana is a certified organic farm, so no pesticides are used. Workers remove snails, set rat traps, and clear away fallen fruit and ground coverings where snails, slugs and rats can hide. Everything that comes out of the field is washed.
"We have controls from field all the way to the bagging, where it goes out for deliveries. But even so you should still be washing your produce when you get home," Zuckerman said.
"It kinda makes you question how well you're washing your produce, and take that extra step to do it." open market shopper Michele Maeda said.
She said she's staying away from farmers markets until the rat lungworm situation quiets down.
"We're not staying away from the farmer's markets. We're just simply rinsing vegetables. Sometimes I even soak them," Jerry Vierkoetter said.
Brian Miyamoto of the Hawaii Farm Bureau said as of now the produce farmers at HFB's Oahu and neighbor island farmers markets have not seen any impact.
The 20 produce growers who sell at Farmlovers Markets want customers who are shying away from their open markets because of rat lungworm to come back.
"Don't overreact," Boyar said. "Wash your vegetables and eat local. Support our local farmers. Not only is it good for the local economy but you're getting all the microbes that are in your area, and that makes your body healthier."
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