Local growers benefit from farm-to-table concept – Pacific Business News

Kai Market’s “living wall” of herbs and spices is so popular that chefs at other Sheraton Waikiki restaurants have been known to pinch from it when in need.

The living wall is a vertical grid of mint, basil, rosemary and other plants growing under warm lights and hydrated by a hidden watering system. Kai Market has three living walls — one by the restaurant’s entrance and two by the buffet line.

The walls, created by Greg and Terry Lee of First Look Exteriors in Waipio Gentry, have helped make Kai Market a popular draw since it opened Aug. 7. The breakfasts are attracting 600 patrons a day, while dinners bring in about 100.

Sheraton General Manager Kelly Sanders got the idea for Kai Market after a visit to Hawaii’s Plantation Village in Waipahu. Trips to the Bishop Museum and Maui sugar cane fields followed.

Working with the Hawaii Farm Bureau and Armstrong Produce, Sheraton helped persuade the state Legislature to enact Act 9 this year. The law established a Department of Agriculture pilot program to encourage farmers to form ag cooperatives with hotels and restaurants and to develop a safe food-certification process.

Sanders said only 10 percent of Hawaii’s approximately 300 farmers are certified for farm-to-plate sales. A $140,000 appropriation in Act 9 will help other farmers get certification.