Innovating in the time of COVID-19 to continue serving our local community*
By: Stephanie Mock, Sustainability Manager at Kualoa Ranch
*This blog was about our unique market we created to serve our community during the “Stay-at-Home” COVID order in Hawai’i. Since June 2020, we have now opened our brand-new, COVID-safe KualoaGrown market here at the Ranch. Check our new market experience here!
Kualoa Ranch’s locally-grown, sustainably-raised produce & protein goes by the name of “KualoaGrown” and all of its products are raised right here in Ka’a’awa, O’ahu, Hawai’i. Kualoa Ranch has its history steeped in agriculture, transitioning through the years from a farm, to cattle ranch, to the diversified agricultural & tourism operation it is today. Cultivating more than 60 edible crops and a variety of protein sources such as grass-fed beef, pork, oysters, tilapia and pond-raised shrimp, KualoaGrown has become a brand that illustrates its commitment to providing local food for local communities through its new, innovative pre-order/pick-up farmer’s market.
How KualoaGrown Has Innovated in the Time of COVID-19
The world has been re-imagining what can be done during this time of COVID-19. From trying to anticipate actions needed now to trying to guess what the future might hold, everyone has needed to pause and reflect on how they best can support their health, their families, and their local communities during this momentous time in history.
KualoaGrown is not separate in this worldwide reflection period. Originally, our products were found on Kualoa’s tours and in Kualoa Ranch’s dining operations with a few outside vendors that also carried our products. We have now found a way to enhance the sustainability of our agricultural operations and to ensure our local community still has access to local, safe, and nutritious food (during a time when people are beginning to recognize more than ever the importance and health benefits of eating local). KualoaGrown has now re-imagined its business model to offer a pre-order/pick-up farmers market for local customers. This model creates a food system to provide local community a reliable hub of locally-grown, sustainably-raised produce & protein during this turbulent time. By re-imagining this model, we have adapted to provide a safe way for customers to pick up their products that also protects the health and safety of our staff who grow & sell our products.
How the Market Works & “Market Day” with the Community
Each week, KualoaGrown sends out a market newsletter that identifies what our local harvest is for that week. Each Friday, customers pick-up their orders in a “contactless” way in which our staff don PPE, maintain social distances of 6ft, and place customers’ orders straight in their cars/trunks to limit contact. “Market day” (as Friday is now known as), is a time that our team and our community can “feel” the community connection even if we are all 6+ feet from each other and wearing gloves and face masks. To see our customers’ smiles and hear their gratitude continues to motivate and inspire our team to grow, process, and sell new products, creating a system and feedback loop that “feeds” all of us and motivates us to continue helping our neighbors.
This new market type of ours has taught us so much and we continue to learn more each week…how to streamline our process, predict orders better, work as a more cohesive team, all while making sure we are following health & safety protocols that still allow us to provide great customer service and great local products. In our second week, we saw a 200+% growth in our market and the interest increases each week, we try out best to continue feeding our local communities and provide that essential service of agriculture.
Through this blog post, we wanted to highlight some of the “behind-the-scenes” work that goes into this market to showcase not only what we have learned but to highlight a “spot of hope” in our community. We are so honored (and humbled) that agriculture is deemed “essential” and that we can continue to farm & ranch for a grateful community.
Each week our farmers harvest, wash, pack, and sort more than 100+ orders with products such as papayas, eggs, shrimp, ulu, grass-fed beef and more. Our farmer’s market allows our agricultural staff to see firsthand (and often for the first time) the gratitude our customers have for being able to access locally-grown, nutritious food. Now our pick-up farmer’s market connects our farm to families in a new way…fostering that sense of community that is so needed in this time.
Feeding Families Farm Fresh Food
Over the past few weeks that we have held this new market, we have
received such gracious words of encouragement and support, motivating our team to continue to innovate our model to better support local families and their access to farm fresh food.
One of our customers, Lisa Kelso said, “We picked up our first order this past Friday and are so pleased with the quality of everything! It’s just so great to have all these wonderful products available and
we’re so grateful for all of your efforts and beautiful organization of the whole process.” Words like these fill our hearts and bring some joy to a time when it can be sometimes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that we are feeding more than 120+ local families each week with farm fresh food allows us to feel (and know) that we are making an impact. We hope to serve as a little “spot of hope” that shows our community’s resiliency.
Mahalo for your support of KualoaGrown and we look forward to planting a “seed of hope” for our collective future. And please…stay healthy.