Hanalei Farmers Market Closing

Not that anyone reads this blog for the breaking news, but apparently this was just announced today by the organization that runs the market. Worse, it is effective immediately, meaning that yesterday’s market (June 2, 2012) was possibly the last for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, if the parking issue can be resolved, it can reopen–but who knows how long that will take.

I heard about this in a thread on Trip Advisor. Here is the text of the email in question:

Dear Hale Halawai ‘Ohana O Hanalei Farmers’ Market Vendors,

We have traveled a long road together and we offer the following information with sadness.

The Hanalei Farmers’ Market will be discontinued as of today, June 2, 2012. After extensive meetings and attempts to implement other solutions to unresolved parking and permit issues, this is what we have to do.

If the parking and use permit situations can be resolved, the Hanalei Farmers’ Market with Kauai grown produce and Kauai made products may reopen at some time in the future. However, it is not possible to make promises that this will happen.

Please make sure we have updated contact information so we can keep you informed as steps are taken.

You have created an amazing success with lots of hard work and caring for one another, staff and customers.

Aloha and Mahalo for all of your positive contributions.

Hale Halawai ‘Ohana O Hanalei Board of Directors

I’m not familiar with Hale Halawai, but I imagine it is the privately owned center and land where the market is held. The Hanalei Market is not one of the “Sunshine” markets that are organized by the county (on county property), thus it did not have the farmers-only rule that the county imposes. Some would say that it was the mix of produce, crafts, art, and prepared food that made the market so successful. But, as with many things on a limited island, the market may have been a victim of its success.

Several other details surfaced in that thread:

  • The vendors were notified after the end of the market, so it was totally unexpected, or at least unannounced. Obviously, they have reason to be upset, as their livelyhoods are at stake.
  • The small market at the Kilauea mini-golf will be expanding to welcome vendors that want to make the move. Still, that’s a much smaller area, and it will have a parking problem sooner or later as well, if this continues.
  • The problem seems to be the damage to the soccer fields there they park the cars. I’m not sure who owns the field, but seeing as how a decent turf playing surface is expensive, I can understand how parking hundreds of cars on it each week could be an issue.
  • There is a FaceBook page to Save the Hanalei Farmers Market.

Given that, it seems that parking in the field is not going to be possible anymore. I assume the organizers need to find adequate parking elsewhere to receive some sort of event permit from the county. Hopefully, the other businesses that benefit from the traffic generated by the market can share their parking, or make it available so the market can continue.

Cynically, I could believe that there is much more to this story than a simple parking and permit issue. The market obviously draws visitors, but does that help or compete with the other businesses in town? Who owns what land, and who could authorize parking on it? If I had more time to be a journalist, these are the issues I would look into.

Sadly, the loss of the market is more than just business and economics. I happened to be in Hanalei this weekend for the Ha’ena to Hanalei run, and I stopped by the market afterwards. I phoned a friend in Princeville that I hadn’t seen in a while, but didn’t reach him so left a message. Not 5 minutes later, he spotted me wandering around at the market, even before he checked his voicemail. So it’s also a place where residents go to shop, hang out, and meet people. Let’s hope it reopens soon, preferrably next week.

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