The big island of Hawai’i at 4,023 square miles is only slightly larger by area than Maryland, and Rhode Island. However, it’s also only about 20% populated. Once containing the largest pineapple plantations in the world as well as the only contingent of the United States that produces coffee, it goes without saying that the island’s ability to yield is rather fierce.
I’m no stranger to farmers’ markets, they’ve been one of the single most defining contexts of the last 5 years of my life. As we all know, there are markets and then there are markets. The Hilo Farmers Market is one of the best I’ve seen, it’s so intense in fact I usually liken it to momentarily giving me and most other people synesthesia. From jackfruit to spam masubi [spam and rice], there aren’t too many things you can’t find under the tarp tents on bay front.
When students achieve the final stage of our program, one of their privileges it to take a weekly trip to the market after processing the facility’s recycling. We give each a certain amount and tell the group that a percentage of the total must be spent on produce or treats for the community [the other students at our program] and the rest can be divided out as a group or individually based on their consensus. Each time students go to the market for the first time it’s like a classic psychology experiment; you can almost see the inner monologue in their heads trying to work itself out while they’re senses are bordering on overload:
“How much is it ok to spend, what’s ok to buy, how do I work with my group to get the most of our money and experience, ahh!?!”
Though without fail each time the students do amazingly and bring a wonderful bounty back and still manage to gorge themselves on things they’ve been daydreaming about for in some cases months. It’s a beautiful moment to share with them, and a wonderful way to build rapport with exceptionally intuitive and intelligent young people who respond and affirm to things as simple and foundational as trust and respect.
Students are not, the Hilo Market is one of the foundational Big Island experiences, and if you ever make your way out to the island chain, you must take your senses for a test drive.