A number of years ago, I remember sitting at lunch with our produce supplier, Mark Teruya of Armstrong Produce and a couple of local farmers. Our purpose was to find out how we could build better partnerships with them. What I remember about lunch was how much I enjoyed their company and learning about their businesses. What Richard Ha of Hamakua Springs Country Farms tells me he remembers is that I ate my salad with chopsticks! Richard claims he had never seen anyone eat salad like that before, but now even he does it all the time. And while I’m not sure that was the first impression I was wishing for, he’s been a great friend and partner to Foodland ever since. (Be sure to try his Hamakua Springs Vine Ripened Beefsteak Tomatoes sold exclusively at our stores and our very own Hamakua salsa made with his tomatoes).
I share the story about that lunch years ago because in many ways, it was the start of our push to grow the amount of local produce we offer in our stores – a push that has now culminated in a big change in the way we merchandise our produce departments. Now, for the first time, all of our local produce is grouped together so it’s easy to identify what’s local and what’s not. Customers have told us that they had no idea we carried so much local produce. And I have to admit, that our previous layout -- with local items spread throughout the produce department and not always signed clearly – made identifying local items a challenge. We hope we’ve fixed that problem.
Why the focus on local? Because as a locally owned and operated company, we are committed to supporting local farmers. We feel doing so is important to our community and our customers -- not to mention that some of the local produce we carry is better and fresher than anything you’ll find on the mainland. We all should be proud to have such great farmers in our community, I know I am. And yes, like my friend Richard Ha, I still prefer to eat salad with chopsticks whenever I can because somehow I am able to eat it more slowly and thoroughly enjoy every bite and flavor that way!