A New Market At Common Ground

In 2003 Chris Jaeb bought the old Guava Kai Plantation in Kilauea and created Common Ground. As an environmental advocate, he began restoring the former conventional farm into a sustainable agriculture resource center that includes organic gardens, a cafe and now a market.

The farm supplies the Garden Cafe with vegetables, eggs and sometimes lamb. Frank Vittoria, the onsite farmer, works with executive chef Rodman Machado to grow organic produce, which the chef fashions into wholesome and delicious meals.

On June 1, Jaeb took the next natural step and opened The Market at Common Ground. Its popular yoga studio was converted into a small specialty shop that sells produce from the garden as well as fruit and vegetables from local farmers.

Lacanito kale, harvested from the garden just this morning, springs from a small grocer’s shelf. Rainbow chard, avocado, radishes and cherry tomatoes are placed beside eggplant, green beans, turnips, carrots, chili peppers and magenta-tipped dandelion greens. A cluster of herbs includes parsley, garlic chives, sage, rosemary and purple basil. Local fruit includes white pineapple, limes, papayas and apple bananas. Washington apples and California oranges are available to meet customer demand.

“We have a huge variety of heirloom tomatoes that are growing in the gardens,” says Patricia Vittoria, manager of The Market. “They are really close, and we’re excited because we’ve been told you can’t grow tomatoes here.”

A lofty ceiling is complete with wood beams, light pours in from picture windows, and pale-green walls are trimmed in white. Simple wood cabinets, rustic wood floors, and a parlor with books and pillowed armchairs exude country charm and understated elegance.

In a corner, Stephanie Montanez answers questions about her line of Hawaiian skin care products. Her company Pala’au, The Healing Touch of Plants, honors ancient tradition by growing herbs for the handmade creams, scrubs and oils that are created under a full moon.

Shelves are stocked with pickles, preserves, sauces and chutneys that Vittoria makes with the garden’s goodies. Beans with maple bacon, salsa, kabocha squash and tomato sauce, pineapple and habanero jelly sparkle in mason jars.

“These beets are processed over a two-day period,” says Vittoria, whose passions have always been gardening and cooking. “We roast them in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and then we can them the old-fashioned way.”

In six months, 100 baby chicks will be old enough to produce eggs for The Market. For now, the industrial cooler holds baby romaine, edible flowers, guava-strawberry syrup, spicy walnut sauce and homemade ketchup.

Vittoria makes a line of baked goods that includes energy bars with buckwheat sprouts and quinoa, chocolate chip coconut cookies, gluten-free oatmeal cookies, apple banana-blueberry muffins, pumpkin bread and kale chips.

I feel cozy and contented, like I’m at Little House on the Prairie. So I’m delighted when Vittoria says, “We’re hoping to have a pumpkin patch and red corn maze this holiday season,” her eyes sparkling. “I’m trying to grow a 100-pound pumpkin!”

The Market at Common Ground

4900 Kuawa Road, Kilauea

Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.