Oahu residents will be able to purchase fresh produce and meat directly from farmers and ranchers without getting out of their cars under a plan unveiled Thursday by Mayor Kirk Caldwell and agricultural leaders.
The farm-to-car idea is designed as a way of dealing with the impacts that the coronavirus outbreak has had on both the general public and the agricultural industry.
“Our farmers are so extremely valuable to our community, and our community is so extremely valuable to farmers,” Caldwell said.
Under the state and city shelter-in-place and work-at-home orders, the public is being asked to practice social distancing to prevent contracting COVID-19. But Caldwell said people are still allowed to go out to shop for food and other necessities, and farmers are still allowed to farm.
The idea — hatched by city agricultural liaison Po-Yung Lai, Hawaii Farm Bureau Executive Director Brian Miyamoto and Farm Bureau General Manager Megan Kono — is somewhat of an offshoot of the popular farmers markets that the Farm Bureau organizes.
“So we have ‘farm to table,’ something that many, many people love,” Caldwell said. “Now we’re going to have ‘farm to car.’”
Under the program, consumers can go to hfbf.org, the Hawaii Farm Bureau’s website, create an account and — starting Wednesday — order and pay for produce and other products. “We’ll prepare the orders, we’ll put ’em in bags,” Miyamoto said. “You’re going to get exactly the products that you want. It’s like going on Amazon.”
Pickups will be at the Blaisdell Center’s Ward Avenue pickup/drop-off area, in front of the exhibition hall, Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon. “It’s a drive-thru, curbside process.” Customers will be able to get “the freshest, the most nutritious produce and products that are available in Hawaii.”
Farmers and ranchers are not being charged for the service. “This is not about anybody making money other than the farmers generating revenues so they can continue their operations and grow the food that we need,” Miyamoto said.
“Our farmers are growing; they’re producing the food,” Miyamoto said. “But with a lot of the retail markets either shut down or scaled back, such as the hotels, our farmers need additional markets to sell their produce. And in order to produce, they need income.”
More than 200 products already were being made available from a growing list of Oahu farmers, ranchers and other creators of food products, Miyamoto said.
The Blaisdell program, described as a pilot project, is expected to be popular, and organizers are hoping to export it to other communities, Miyamoto said.
The program was announced at a news conference that was broadcast live over social media from the Blaisdell on Thursday. By the time the half-hour news conference was done, 50 customers had created accounts, Miyamoto said.
The quantities to be sold won’t pose competition to the supermarkets, especially with the closure of restaurants and other markets the farmers typically service, he said, noting that there are other programs the Farm Bureau is coordinating with the retail food industry. “We need them all,” Miyamoto said. “We’re trying to move the products that have already been harvested.”