These days, almost everything can be delivered, including fresh, locally-grown produce. On Oahu, a variety of veggie subscription services have modeled their business on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In a typical CSA, individuals invest directly in a farm prior to a planting season and then enjoy a portion of the subsequent harvest in the form of weekly boxes of fruits and vegetables. Farmers are relieved of the pressure to provide all upfront planting costs, and consumers benefit through cheaper, fresher and more diverse produce than what they might get at a grocery store. But most of us are commitment shy—typical CSAs can require a commitment of half a year. Enter the weekly veggie subscription, which still offer farm-fresh produce directly to consumers, but minus the long-term commitment. Here’s a look at three subscription services that operate in very different ways.
Fresh Produce, Fresh Ideas
Matt Johnson, with an undergraduate degree in business and a Peace Corps tour working alongside farmers in the Philippines, combined his expertise in Oahu Fresh. It’s a food distribution service that, like its tagline touts, delivers local produce to your doorstep. Johnson coordinates with multiple farms in gathering the fruits and vegetables, from Ho Farm’s spigarello (with leaves that taste like broccoli) to Kualoa Ranch’s starfruit. By collaborating with myriad growers, Oahu Fresh’s CSA packages are treasure troves of fresh produce. Specialty add-ons like cage-free Shaka Moa eggs and Naked Cow Dairy butter add to the riches.
Oahu Fresh has expanded from its original start as a small scale distribution company to a clearinghouse for farmers, consumers and entrepreneurs to convene and collaborate on new products. Johnson, who also teaches agricultural business classes at UH Manoa and Leeward Community College, says, “I like helping farms become economically viable. If someone has an idea for a product—I want to help them get it to market.” The Iwilei warehouse has evolved into a business incubator and a one-stop shop for growers and consumers to connect— all providing fertile ground for new local businesses and new local products to grow.
Delivery throughout Oahu, oahufresh.com
Eat Local, Support Local
As a response to Hawaii’s reliance on imported food, the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting local agriculture and farming, launched the Local Inside CSA in 2015 as part of its mission to support and sustain small farmers and provide them a direct link to community consumers. The name “Local Inside” is on point: everything inside a Local Inside bag is grown at the HAF Ag Park in Kunia and provides the 25 small farmers who lease land there a direct link to their community consumers. The consortium of farmers working the 218 acre parcel grow a bounty of produce—bananas, long beans, butternut squash, and more—that is then gathered and packed in a reusable, insulated bag along with recipes and special offers from partner restaurants. Since Local Inside is run by a nonprofit, all proceeds go back to the HAF Ag Park, further bolstering the Foundation’s commitment to helping small farmers thrive.
A dozen pickup locations throughout Oahu, localinside.org
Seeding For Future Generations
Three days a week, students from MAO Farm’s Kauhale Youth Leadership Training program (YLT) gather together for their e ho mai, or morning chant. It’s a moment of centering for the group before heading out to the fields or, if it’s Wednesday, assembling under the open air warehouse to sort, wash and prep the organic produce destined for MAO’s bright yellow CSA boxes. The air feels convivial and purposeful.
MAO Farms, tucked away in Waianae’s Lualualei Valley, is a teaching farm. Targeting disenfranchised Waianae young adults, the YLT program provides students academic and entrepreneurial fostering through college tuition support, a monthly stipend and first hand job experience—like helping to operate the CSA—while working at the farm. Students must test their mettle: “People didn’t expect them to do well,” says Kaui Sana, MAO Farm Manager. “What we found is if you give these kids kuleana (responsibility) they will.”
MAO draws deep from its Hawaiian value of aloha aina, working closely with the land. Everything is grown organically: the understanding is, if the land is nourished, so are the people closely connected to it. MAO CSA subscribers are considered “co-producers,” helping both to grow food and young leaders.
Eight pickup locations throughout Oahu, maoorganicfarms.org