Hilo Coffee Mill—Market @ The Mill
The Farmers Market at The Hilo Coffee Mill has the distinction of being the only farmers market found on a working farm in East Hawai’i. The market grounds are graced by the farm’s collection of chickens, milling around and scavenging for treats, while visitors shop, eat breakfast and enjoy live entertainment.
Located on 24 acres, The Hilo Coffee Mill farm’s beautifully landscaped property consists of several acres planted in coffee and tea as well as fruit trees; gardens featuring native plants and some non-native ornamentals; chicken coops; a drying shed and the farm’s coffee roasting building; and the central building which houses a café, coffee tasting bar and gift shop.We have visited this market several times since their opening in December 2009 and find that there is always something different or new going on. The Market @ The Mill features live entertainment by area musicians, usually from 9 a.m. until noon, and also a freshly cooked breakfast prepared all morning on their large portable griddle. The breakfast offerings change weekly but always use local, farm-fresh ingredients and locally baked breads. As an added courtesy, they ask whether you have any dietary restrictions or allergies caused by any food products. Market owners and coffee mill business partners Katherine Patton and Jeanette Barcia stress that all fruits, vegetables, fish, poi, plants, animals and crafts sold are from Hawai’i Island, neighboring islands or are value-added Hawai’i products using some local ingredients.
Grant Turner of Puna Specialty Gardens is one of the original vendors since the start of the market and is a fountain of information on landscaping and plants. A collection of ti, vireya, orchids, non-invasive bamboos, specialty cannas and other plants can be seen in his booth.
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Another regular vendor is the Papa’a Palaoa Bakery from Mountain View owned by Eric Cox. “Handcrafted” oatmeal bread, three-nut whole wheat bread,cranberries and nut whole wheat, and chapati are just a few of the delicious breads you can pick up from Shirley Curl who runs the booth for the bakery.Cynthia Bologna, The Pasta Lady has only been selling at The Mill market since March of this year, but she has become a regular fixture with her own following for her fresh handcrafted gourmet pastas. Cynthia opened her pasta making business in 2005. She was taught as a small child by her Sicilian grandmother and by the time she was six years old could make pasta on her own while standing on a stool to reach the table. Her Fettuccine noodles, sun-dried tomato, rosemary and basil always sell out first. The ravioli pasta is also popular and available by special order if she is contacted by Wednesdays. Popular fillings for the ravioli are Gorgonzola and ricotta; sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta; basil pesto with ricotta or ricotta and hazelnuts. Other fillings are available on request. Cynthia says “Everyone, the vendors and customers, are very friendly and personable. I have many customers who come each week to get the pasta and place special orders for pick up the following Saturday. The market gets many new customers by word of mouth. I’ve had people come running up telling me they heard about the market and the pasta from a friend and they just had to come see and try it for themselves.”
The Hilo Coffee Mill booth offers not only their own brand of freshly roasted coffee, but also their own fresh eggs, papayas, avocadoes and bananas. In addition, they sell freshly made salsa, coffee-coconut tapioca, coffee flavored syrup and toasted coconut candy. All the value-added products are made on the Mill premises. Partner Jeanette is in charge of ‘cooking on the griddle’ and preparing breakfasts. This time it was an omelet, a coffee-marinated grilled beef, fresh fruit and a thick grilled slice of Papa’a Palaoa Bakery’s Three Nut Bread with a big dollop of butter. Other Saturdays the offerings can be Burracos, made with farm fresh eggs, Portuguese sausage and bell peppers, wrapped in a locally made flour tortilla; or “Huevos Rancheros” and other egg dishes, always served with locally grown fresh fruits.
Leslie Jean Whited was the featured performer when we visited. Accompanied by her poodle-shtzu, Cherry, “Leslie Jean,” as she is known, sings for vendors and visitors alike. She writes her own music and her compositions tend to be ballads which one of the vendors at the site approvingly called “ethereal music.”
Farmers Market @ the Mill
Saturdays, 7 am – Noon
Location: 17-995 Volcano Rd. (Highway 11) between Mile Markers 12 & 13, Mountain View, Puna
Date started: December 2009How Funded: Hilo Coffee Mill funds
Cost per stall/booth: $10, with first week free. Free 100% Hawaiian coffee for vendors during market hours. $1 off breakfast.Growth since started:
Number of vendors: started with 6 and now have 12 to 14
Diversity of products: from fish, fruits & veggies to breads and pasta to plants and herb starts to jams and jellies and local breakfasts
Increase in income: At least doubled
Vendors come from: Hamakua, Hilo, Puna, and Ka’u
Current Products: Fruits and veggies, plants, bread, jams and jellies, cookies, pickled mango and veggies, handcrafted pasta, macadamia nut butter, waiwi furniture, local breakfast cooked on the griddle, syrups, candy, salsa, eggs etc.
Growing methods: Most are conventional, one is all natural and in the process of being certified organic, most are pesticide free, some hydroponics, free range (eggs)
Best selling products: Bananas, bread, pasta, melons, strawberries, vireya, herb starts, syrup, salsa, breakfastProducts desired: We’re pretty diversified when everyone is there. Because we’re small and local, some vendors have chosen to come every other week. Also, it’s hard to find farmers who want to come and spend their Saturday mornings at the market. They chose to sell to companies like Hilo Products and restaurant direct and don’t have the product or the time to spend sitting at a farmers’ market.
Special Events: Often live entertainment, 9 am to Noon.
Sonia Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka’a. She is a contributing writer for Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine and has her own food & garden blog at soniatasteshawaii.com .