There are three main pieces of information that I take into account when purchasing food and products for the restaurant and I think they’re important enough to share. Consumers are generally price driven, or make purchases based on brand loyalty. There’s nothing wrong with great prices in my book or staying loyal to a product you know you love, and those play a role with how we source ingredients, but aren’t the major factors.
The First two things I take into account fall into what I consider to be the environmental impacts category. The first of which is getting that product from its original origin (yes, intentional redundancy to stress the true beginnings!) to the doors of Moku Roots. We source things as locally as possible, we have a farm in Launiupoko which is 4.7 miles door to door where we source some ingredients (although we are more focussed on planting than we are harvesting at the moment so in a few months we can be harvesting as much as possible) and that’s not even the shortest distance some of our produce travels! We get lots of our produce from Simpli Fresh organic farm which can't be farther than 2 miles from the restaurant, and get this, some of our bananas and tapioca are grown less than 50 feet from our backdoor! Not even joking. Our friend’s back door is adjacent to the restaurants and he has a little organic garden in the back yard growing all kinds of greens, bananas, yuca, mangoes, avocados, blackberries, citrus. If you have ever eaten our breakfast “potato” blend, it consists of some combination of (**all Maui grown**) purple sweet potatoes, traditional orange flesh sweet potatoes, taro, and yuca which is so local it has never even ridden in a car!
So the amount of energy required to get something to us from its origin is certainly part of what I weigh out regarding environmental impact, but packaging is equally as important to me in what I’m buying. One of the great things about buying directly from your farmer is you can bring your own container to pick produce up in or they drop it off and we put it into our reusable containers and they take theirs buckets and bins back to be used in transport again and again. There are some things we aren’t able to source locally, such as tofu, olive oil, balsamic vinegar etc which we try to buy in the most minimal packaging possible or in packaging that is reusable in some beneficial way. And i’m not talking about hoarding a closet full of something you’ll never use again, for instance we are in the process of using the tofu containers to grow micro greens which we use on many of our menu items. The glass jars we either reuse as drinking glasses in restaurant, or storing stuff in the fridge or give to our Hot sauce maker to fill with delicious Jake sauce.
**(We have since stopped buying tofu and replaced it on our menu with eggplant which we grow in Launiupoko)**
With everything that is going on regarding the recycling of plastics in America right now it is of utmost importance to me to make my purchasing decisions largely based on how much plastic its packaging contains. (short story is China used to take most of the worlds plastic recyclables and melt them down to make new ones. America, for years, sent them dirty container ships of plastics contaminated with other things that are definitely not plastics, and it became more costly to sort than just to create virgin plastics from fossil fuels and put all pre-used plastics into landfills for all of eternity. Also, plastics, unlike other recyclables such as glass and metal which can be recycled over and over indefinitely, degrade somewhat every time they are recycled so most plastics can only be recycled a max of 5 or 6 times. So China has greatly scaled back from whom and what types of plastics they accept worldwide. I read that Maui is no longer recycling any plastics other than #1 and #2 which have necks - ie are bottles of some kind, but the Olowalu recycling center still accepts all plastics which makes me think all plastics even those #1, #2 with necks are going into landfill. I don’t know this for sure and please if you know more info, let me know because I want to know the truth!)
Pesticides and herbicides are of course a huge factor in the realm of environmental impacts and we do our absolute best to stay as far away from them as humanly possible! This is why purchasing organics is my second factor that I weigh out. Most of our locally sourced ingredients are “organically managed and pesticide free” if they haven’t gone through the organic certification process. And of course most of the aforementioned mainland sourced products are USDA certified organic :) Everything we grow is pesticide free and we practice organic farming and composting to take care of our soil and plants naturally. However, we will never pursue a USDA certification.
Price of ingredients plays a roll in my buying process, it would be silly not to, but its the third factor, not the first. We look for great deals on produce and other ingredients alike, but we would never compromise quality to save a few bucks. We might have to pass on some ingredients whose prices wouldn’t allow our food to be affordable. We have some established great relationships with local farmers and just local people with beautiful citrus, avocado, mango, papaya, and banana trees whose great prices we are able to pass on to you!