KITV4: Island Farmers Look Forward to Restaurant Dining Re-Opening
Many Hawaii farms have been hurt without restaurants buying island fruits and vegetables, leaving owners looking forward to Friday’s reopening of dining rooms.
Restaurants aren’t the only businesses whose owners hope residents start dining out again.
Some Island farms are still reeling from the stay-at-home orders, leaving workers looking forward to Friday’s lifting of dine-in restrictions.
“It has always been a passion of mine to grow things,” said Fred Lau, owner of Mari’s Gardens.
Lau loves to grow things so much, he built an 18 acre farm in Mililani and grows tomatoes, cucumbers and lots of lettuce using aquaponics and hydroponics.
“We do believe this is the farming of the future. Hydroponics can feed the islands,” stated Lau.
His hydroponic lettuce grown helped feed many in the islands. Mari’s Gardens produced 37,000 heads of lettuce each month during the busiest winter months, because the plants like a cool growing environment..
“It was a very cold winter, it was one of our most productive seasons. Even in March, we were still at full production, then overnight it shut down,” said Lau.
Dining at restaurants stopped, visitors emptied out of hotels, and cruise ships no longer needed the thousands of pounds of produce grown at their Mililani Farm. He said his lettuce sales wilted the most because he couldn’t even sell the crops at farmers markets.
“Lettuce is extremely perishable. It is very difficult to do it at a farmers market where we don’t have refrigeration. We can’t run a truck with refrigeration all day long there,” added Lau.
Like many other businesses, expanded curbside pickup helped keep the business going. While stepped up online sales brought in new customers like Jeffrey Bautista and his son.
Right now, we don’t have anything else to do. So we are collecting all the different types of succulents and we will fill up the house with them,” stated Bautista.
Business at Mari’s Gardens has been slowly growing since March when sales were cut in half.
Now, he and his two dozen workers look forward to the return of dine-in eating, along with the hopes more produce will need to be harvested.
“We think it is going to start up very slowly. We are only at 70% production, you can see some empty spaces in our greenhouse,” added Lau.
Lau told KITV 4 Island News he is used to weather, pests, and fungus damaging or even destroying his crops. But he never expected something he couldn’t even see to hurt his industry so drastically.