Whole Foods names first isle farmer partnerships
Three farms have been selected for the grocer's first Hawaii location
Whole Foods Market has chosen its first Hawaii farmers to supply its first Hawaii store, which is expected to open next spring in Kahala Mall.
Ma'o Organics, Poamoho Organic Produce and Hamakua Springs Country Farms were named yesterday by the grocer.
"This is exactly the kind of opportunity we have been waiting for," said Gary Maunakea-Forth of Ma'o Farm in Waianae.
Michael Besancon, Whole Foods' southern Pacific region president, said 75 percent of the company's produce comes from family farms.
Ma'o Farm -- short for Mala 'Ai 'Opio -- is a non-profit group in Waianae that recruits youth to run its farm while teaching them leadership, business and agricultural skills.
They sell produce at the Hawaii Farm Bureau's Saturday farmer's market at Kapiolani Community College.
Poamoho Organic Produce, on Oahu's North Shore, specializes in tropical fruits, herbs and organic asparagus.
Al Santoro, owner of the 7-acre family-run farm in Waialua, and president of the Hawaii Co-op of Organic Farmers, said he hopes Whole Foods' presence will help smaller farmers boost their production.
"They're making a good effort to identify the number of growers they can start with," said Santoro.
Big Island-based Hamakua Springs Country Farms is run by three generations of the Ha family on the slopes of Mauna Kea.
Hamakua grows tomatoes, a chef's blend of baby lettuce grown hydroponically, as well as watercress, Japanese cucumbers and bananas.