The Kapiʻolani Community College Farmers’ Market is the place to be on Saturday mornings.

Pretty amazing, when you consider its humble beginnings in 2003.

“We started with maybe a hundred people coming,” said Michael Kliks, the owner of the Mānoa Honey Company. “Now there is sometimes maybe eight, nine, ten thousand people coming here.”

The Farmers’ Market is a partnership between the Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau and the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiʻolani Community College and has become a destination event.

It’s popular with locals and tourists and serves many purposes—the most important is creating an environment where culinary students and local farmers interact on a regular basis.

“We want to teach the students firsthand, while they are in school, the importance of supporting our local farmers, using local foods,” said Conrad Nonaka, director of the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges Culinary Institute of the Pacific.

“Getting a chance to meet these people, and see where the food is coming from and many of them offer to take you to their farm and tour,” said Kapiʻolani Community College culinary student Trevor Jackson.

“Some of them have come up and see us and it just, it opens a whole new avenue of where their food comes from, what you can do with it, how healthy it is,” said Kara Caryle of Maunawili Greens, one of the vendors at the market.

“You see the people who put their hands in the dirt or, you know, go out and collect the honey and stuff,” said Kapiʻolani culinary student Marco Kallies. “You want to use that product the best you can because you have more respect for it.”

The customers also get to rub elbows with the local farmers and food vendors.

“They can ask us questions,” said Caryle. “How it is grown.”

“I love it,” said Rosemary Liu, a Kapiʻolani Farmer’s Market regular since 2004. “I really think it is a great opportunity. You get to know the vendors. They get to know you. It is a really wonderful community feeling.”

culinary student

Kapiʻolani CC culinary students operate one of the Kapiʻolani CC Farmers’ Market booths.

About 60 farmers and food vendors are at the market bright and early each week, it officially opens at 7 a.m.

Kapiʻolani culinary students operate one of the food booths. They’re in charge of everything—the menu, preparing and serving the food, the money. It’s part of the agreement that established the market.

“It gives us a real chance to communicate with the people and see what they want and get instant feedback from them,” said Jackson.

The food booth provides a valuable experience for those considering a culinary career. The profits from the college’s booth help fund activities such as student culinary tours to France and Thailand, which is just another benefit from the Kapiʻolani Farmer’s Market.

“It creates a synergy and benefit to all when we can make something happen, that benefits the farmers, benefit the food vendors that utilize local products, benefit education and benefit tourism and most of all, benefitting the community,” said Nonaka.