Market Fresh

Every Thursday afternoon, the parking lot at Kapolei High School (KHS) transforms into Makeke Kapolei, a farmers’ and green market where you’ll find a nice variety of fresh local produce, handmade crafts, ‘ono snacks and more. There also are a few food trucks on site, community booths and various neighborhood fundraising groups.

But what makes this farmers market extra special are the people behind it. Through a partnership between Malama Learning Center, Wai‘anae Farmers’ Market and Kapolei High School, Makeke Kapolei opened in Oct. 2011 with a mission of creating a gathering place to:

• Preserve the knowledge, values and tradition of local farmers, food producers and Hawaiian cultural practitioners.

• Support and encourage both new and experienced farmers to develop environmentally sound and economically viable practices.

• Support and encourage cultural practitioners and artisans.

• Provide its community weekly access to fresh, affordable, locally grown produce and products.

• Provide an environment that invites and promotes the sharing, learning and expressing of malama pono among community members, vendors, students and educators.

“We have some veteran vendors on a weekly basis, and we’re constantly getting new vendors,” says Cassandra Ohelo, Makeke Kapolei manager. “We have those who provide farm-fresh produce, craft vendors, and we are in support of school fundraisers from not just Kapolei High School and Middle School, but even schools from the Wai‘anae district. This is for the community, and we want to bring the entire community together.”

Take a trip to Makeke Kapolei, and you will see that this truly is a gathering place. As shoppers navigate their way through the sectioned-off lot of 30-plus vendors, be prepared to stop every few steps to say hello to a neighbor, converse with a friend or simply give a quick kiss on the cheek to someone you know.

Among the popular items at the market are “paradisicles” from Paletas Hawaii, which are Mexican popsicles made from fresh fruits, and available in a water or cream base. The refreshing frozen treats come in an assortment of flavors, including pineapple, guava, strawberry, watermelon, tamarind, cantaloupe, lime, mango, hibiscus, strawberry cheesecake, coconut, rice pudding, macadamia nut, green tea, Kona coffee, vanilla and bubblegum.

Another hot seller is the Hawaiian Twisted Tater featuring a fun, hot and tasty spiral potato on a long stick or in a big tray. Choose from Chili Cheese, Bacon Cheddar Ranch or Hot Dog Chili Cheese; and with seasonings of mayo furikake, salt and vinegar, garlic parmesan, buffalo cheese, chili cheese, sour cream and onion, garlic pepper and salt, or barbecue.

There also is a great selection of trendy handcrafted items, fashion accessories and home products, such as jewelry, tote bags, hand-crocheted hats, cleaning solutions and kitchen tools.

Students from Kapolei High also participate as volunteers or vendors. The Drama Club offers face painting and shave ice with all proceeds going to support their club. The Culinary Program sells a variety of soups and specials prepared by its students and oftentimes students will bring their senior projects to the market.

The Malama Learning Center also has a booth with native Hawaiian plants, such as naupaka and pohinahina, and edible plants, including green onion, basil, Italian parsley and Okinawan spinach. Everything is grown from its nursery at Kapolei High where Malama Learning Center is based. The private, nonprofit promotes healthy, sustainable living by educating the community through art, science, conservation and cultural programs for youth and adults.

There also is a Hawaiian cultural presentation every first Thursday of the month made possible by a grant from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s Living Hawaiian Culture program administered by the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. Past demonstrations included lomi lomi massage by Jerry Iokia, building ‘ukulele out of koa wood by Valley Made Ukulele, and making ‘inamona by kumu Verne L. Nalani Kiaha.

“Makeke Kapolei is really a fascinating look into the increase in demand for local culture, food and agriculture, which makes this scene well worth the trip to Kapolei,” adds Ohelo, noting that makeke means market.

MAKEKE KAPOLEI is open from 3 to 6:30 p.m. every Thursday except on major holidays, and accepts EBT and SNAP benefits.

Community groups, such as sports teams that are fundraising also are welcome to join. Booth fees range from $10 to $25.

For more information or to apply, email