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Maku’u Farmer’s Market

It’s All About ‘Ohana

Maku’u Farmers Association + Farmer’s Market

Puna, HI

From the original leadership of Paula Kekahuna to her daughter, Laua’e, today, ‘ohana/family is ingrained in culture-keeping, placemaking and place-keeping of the Maku’u Farmers Association. Native Hawaiian culture is inherent in how the Homestead farmers plant, cultivate, and harvest, and the teaching of these cultural practices to the keiki/youth. The deep relationship to and stewardship of the ‘aina/land is reinforced through the recognition of traditional land designations and divisions: moku, ahupua’a and ‘ili. Similarly, their farming practices – also being passed on to this next generation – are based in Kaulana Mahina/Hawai’i lunar calendar, which guides them when and what to fish and farm.

The mission of the Maku’u Farmers Association is to promote Native Hawaiian cultural values and traditions, to provide educational and employment opportunities while also developing small businesses, and to become self-sufficient as established by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920. One key focus of the Association is the Maku’u Farmer’s Market.

“Our vendors come from all over the world and aren’t all Native Hawaiian. They aren’t ma’a/aware of our approach or culture and sometimes have to be “checked” by our elders. Eventually, most of them come around and get on board with our way of doing things.”

– Laua’e Kekahuna, Maku’u Farmer’s Association
Laua’e Kekahuna

Every Sunday from 8am to 2pm, the Maku’u outdoor farmer’s market in Puna hosts 3,000 visitors and 300 vendors selling produce, baked goods, art and crafts, plants, flowers, and local apparel. The market not only provides space for homestead lessees to vend, but greater economic opportunities for locals, jobs and training for our keiki/youth, and opportunity for the wider community to buy and shop local.

What makes Maku’u different from other farmers markets? It is ‘Ohana/family based. Everyone gets to know each vendor. Vendors and their kids grow up together, building longstanding relationships, trust and loyalty – sometimes to the point that vendors will not go anywhere else to sell their products. The market was specifically scheduled for Sundays after the founders spoke with other markets and received input that this would be the best day to not compete with them. Maku’u’s approach fosters connection not just with its own vendors and market community, but with other markets as well.

Beyond the Farmer’s Market

In addition to the market, the Association also operates a Cultural Center. The Cultural Center seeks to rehabilitate the keiki/youth to our cultural practices of ukulele, fish net making, the native language of Hawai’i, hula and much more. This cultural education is integrated along with our farming practices and market vending.

Shaka Tea is a locally owned business that makes tea from Hawaiian medicinal plants. The Association received 250 tea trees and Shaka buys back the harvest to brew their tea. Many community members were given trees to plant and harvest as well.

“The Homestead and Maku’u ground us in the history, overthrow, and the land that was stolen in Hawai’i. We need to make sure we remember this, and do our work in a way that re-grounds us and connects us with the people who are of the place originally. For me, personally, as an Asian settler, it’s super important for me to remember this, especially in our work around equity and resilience.”

– Brent Kakesako, HACBED

The Association’s next goal is a Community Center. This will serve as a physical “home,” with 4 walls, 2 kitchens, a hula studio, computer lab, certified imu, lanai area, office space and conference room. Breaking ground in summer 2021, this will be a space for youth to gather, to transition small businesses to scale and into commercial ones, and to be a resilience hub for the greater community.

• To build a marketplace for homestead lessees and vendors to vend
• To promote self-sufficiency of Hawaiian homesteaders
• To provide job opportunities and training to keiki/youth
• To pass down Hawaiian culture, values, and practices
• To help break the cycle of struggle that Native Hawaiian people have endured for so long
• To bring back those vendors that lost their means of farming after 2018 lava flow

• ʻŌLELO NOEAU: AʻO (TEACHING AND LEARNING) Never stop learning and be open minded.
• ‘Ohana is the foundation. Deep, long-standing relationships with and ties to the community is first and foremost. This allows us to have true attunement with people’s needs. For example: An initial wave of COVID response and donations flooded the community. Maku’u stepped in once this wave subsided, seeing the continued need.
• When you’re already part of the community, the message of who you are and what you do will get out through “coconut wireless.” Maku’u is known as a central, go-to spot for the community even though we don’t engage much in marketing or on social media.
• Never give up – even when things take longer than you know they should.
• Use what you have.