On the rooftop of Automart USA (formerly CompUSA) Alan Joaquin plans to convert an area of black roofing paper to edible green vegetables. Not only would this contribute to Hawaii becoming more food independent but it also helps to cool the building by minimizing the heat absorbing black surface. Joaquin's company FarmRoof developed specialized plant tubing that contains a nutrient, soil mix that is light weight and contains a watering system. The tubes are uncoiled into lengths customized for the rooftop. It weigh under 5 pounds per square foot and can be installed on any flat roof. The company plans to focus on growing high nutrient value crops like kale, beet leaves, arugula and asian greens for sale in local restaurants. But the produce is not limited to restaurants. FarmRoof is a Community Supported Agriculture member and with a subscription individuals like you and me can get four weekly deliveries of 10 oz of their mix of "Supergreens". With the rooftop farm on Automart USA started, Joaquin expects their first harvest to be in April. Plans are underway to sign up other buildings in the Honolulu area. Joaquin described the day when airlines flying over Honolulu, rather than seeing black top, would see fields of urban greenery, edible no less.
This past week was quite a learning experience participating in the Kanu Hawaii Eat Local Challenge. To be conscientious about sourcing locally produced foods is a challenge and has to be well planned out. In our eat and run culture, I found myself slowing down a bit to think about what markets to go to and which restaurants might offer a local dish. On Sunday, Sept 26, I started off by picking up several local favorites from Foodland Pearl City. Poi, Okinawan sweet potato, local kim chee, lau lau and poke were on my list. This was to at least take care of three evening dinners. I asked the fish department folks at Foodland if the poke was local and they said only if it said fresh. And on this day, nothing was fresh. All the fish was from either China, Taiwan or the Philippines. I thought about Tamashiro Market but never made it out to Palama. Convenience is still a big factor in what we eat and for me eating choices are made based on convenience and price. Foodland fit the bill. I did have to sacrifice on variety for my dinners but did get a treat when I was able to get some local white crab. Three medium size crabs made for a good alternative to lau lau for one of those days. Also a buddy at work brought in a hand of apple bananas for everyone in the office. That was a great and perfect for breakfast along with my non-local coffee from Papua New Guinea (via Costco). Lunches are a challenge especially if you are going to bring a home lunch. I tried one day with okinawan sweet potatoes, dried ahi and an apple banana, but the rest of the week was bought lunches. Honolulu Burger Co. did a great job with a Eat Local Special burger, very flavorful and the mushroom was to die for. An added bonus for mentioning Kanu was free fries and a drink. Worth it for $10. Next was Downtown @ HISAM. It was the Sept. monthly Bytemarks Lunch so it was good reason to talk tech and support #EatLocalHI. I had their Eat Local special which was a fish dish featuring opah and local vegetables. Wow, this combo was a like a punch in the taste buds. The fish as ono but the local radishes were overpowering. I enjoyed it but, not sure if I would order it again and at $16 we're getting up in price. On Friday the Kaimuki Lunch Bunch had a #EatLocalHI lunch tweetup at Big City Diner. Good turn out and BCD's special was mahimahi with local vegetables like baby bok choy, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes with a light cream sauce. Perfect combo for a fish dish and at a price of $13 it was a bargain not to mention @bcdlane threw in the edamame appetizer and decadent chocolate dessert. Obvious going out to lunch like this is not something I can financially sustain but I didn't think the price of the local selections were out of the norm for a sit down restaurant lunch. What I think this challenge brought to my attention was that with some simple choices you could support the local agriculture business. Next time you are at the market, buy some local produce like sweet potatoes, onions, baby bak choy or some local eggs, beef and fresh fish. I'll pay a little more attention the next time I make my purchase. If we all did, maybe we could show the local food producer there's a market out there and help encourage Hawaii's local food industry. It might be our first step toward food sustainability.