Changes coming to the Saturday Diamond Head farmers market

Published On: Apr 08 2012 09:44:35 AM HST
Updated On: Apr 07 2012 05:00:00 PM HST
Tomatoes At Farmers Market

HONOLULU -

Changes are coming to the Diamond Head Saturday farmers market, which is considered the flagship of Oahu's farmers markets.

A mix of local produce, flowers and food venders is the draw.
But, the Farm Bureau says it is anticipating stricter federal requirements.  Its landlord, Kapiolani Community College, wants to restrict farmers to those who are safety certified.

"It is a mandate.  It is part of their contract.  It’s a liability issue overall, so I understand it, but it’s sooner than I expected," said Dean Okimoto, of the Hawaii Farm Bureau.

Okimoto expects to lose about two farms on its vendor list.

But, for organizers of three other smaller markets -- Ala Moana, Haleiwa and Hawaii Kai -- it's another story.

They agree on the need for food safety, but they are more worried about a bill that Hawaii lawmakers are considering than the looming federal laws.

They believe requiring all market farmers to be certified would drive up costs and put farmers out of business.

"We have a handful of farmers who have gone through the process and stopped, because they couldn't keep their prices competitive because of the paperwork." said Annie Suite, who along with Pamela Boyer, operate three Oahu markets at Ala Moana Shopping Center, Haleiwa and Hawaii Kai.

"A lot of the farmers will stop farming.  Our immigrant farmers will not be able to do this.  And the thing is we now have a lot of young farmers coming up in their 20s and 30s and we don’t want to discourage them," said Boyer.

KCC and the Farm Bureau may be using food safety as a branding and marketing tool, but some question why it's not being applied fairly across the board.

"The food vendors do not have to be certified, which is kind of crazy. If you have been to our farmers market, there are more food vendors serving meals than there are farmers," said Glenn Martinez of Olomana Farms.

Martinez opposes attempts by the Hawaii Farm Bureau to create local food safety laws before the federal rules are handed down.

Plans call for food safety responsibilities to be with the state Health Department instead of the Department of Agriculture.

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