Archive for February, 2010

Farmer Profile: Manuel Marques

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Here is profile of the Ka’u farmer whose  bags of whole bean, hand roasted coffee we are featuring right now at the hatchery.  Please come by, lend your support and treat yourself to some exquisite coffee.  And please, spread the word.  More profiles of more farmers and their great work to come.

Ka'u coffee farmer, Manuel Marques

Farmer Profile-Manuel Marques

Manuel Marques farms eight magnificent acres of coffee orchards at 1800’ elevation in Cloud Rest Coffee Park at Moaula, located in the Ka’u district on the Big Island of Hawaii. Manuel has a reputation among his peers as an outstanding farmer and is locally famous for his extensive collection of aloha shirts. He tends to his coffee trees meticulously. Manuel’s coffee scored 11th place at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 2008 International Coffee of the Year Cupping Competition in Minneapolis.

As a child in the 50’s, Manuel helped his father, Manuel Sr., raise coffee at Milolii mauka– south of Kona. His father had a five acre farm of his own and managed five additional farms for a total of nearly 100 acres. His entire family, father, mother, and five children would go to the coffee farms on Friday night and stay in the coffee shacks there until Sunday night. They would work from dark to dark picking coffee or tending the coffee trees.  In the late 50’s and early 60’s the prices for Kona coffee began to decline.  By 1964 Manuel’s father had given up on coffee farming.

As a young man Manuel lived and worked Honolulu for number of years, first in the body and fender business, then he worked for a cab company before starting his own cab company. In 1978 his father asked him to come back to Ka’u. Manuel worked for the plantation from that time until the plantation closed in 1996.

“I worked for the [sugar] plantation. I worked my way up the totem pole, starting at the bottom. I started out as a field hand, drove a truck and then was a crane operator. The plantation was a good life. They asked us to take a pay cut. I wanted to take one, but the people voted no. The layoffs started right there. The money stopped flowing”

Manuel started coffee seedlings 3 months before the plantation closed as he knew that his ex-employer would be offering agricultural leases as part of his severance package. He farms that same leasehold today.

Manuel’s coffee is a distinct blend of yellow and red Caturra from Moaula, Catuai from Oahu and Guatemala Typica. The latter is a very old local strain that is fully adapted to its environment. This unique blend of varietals helps give Manuel’s coffee fabulous aroma and contributes to its complex yet balanced flavor profile.

Manuel’s coffee is entirely hand-picked, processed in small batches and sun dried.

“My favorite thing about coffee farming is seeing the trees grow, making something beautiful.  I love that. You have to feed the trees and not let them get stressed. Then they will produce good coffee.

“What I would like to see for Ka’u coffee in the future is the equipment and facilities to do everything here, all the processing.  That would turn Ka’u coffee into an industry for Ka’u.  That would be great.”

This profile was sent to us by the Ka’u CSA who is helping Mr. Marques find a market for his coffee, Ka’u Local Products. © 2010 Ka’u Local Products, LLC

Movement to Preserve Small Businesses

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

A few weeks ago, looking through a stack of old magazines at the hatchery, we came across a December 1958 issue of the Hawaii Farm Bureau magazine and found this.

1958.  We were still at Damon Tract and we were still a farm.  A real farm that could hatch and grow chickens and vegetables. Where people could come to buy not just chicks, but eggs and chicken freshly dressed for that night’s supper.

It was a year before statehood.  A year before the Tract was sold to a realtor for developing, resulting in not only our family’s farm’s closure but the clearing of an entire community of residences, shops, farms, orchards, nurseries to make way for industrial plans near the airport.  Our grandfather, Mike, decided that even at that time, farmland was way too difficult to acquire.  Egg and pig farms were being run out of Hawaii Kai and Waialae.  He decided to stay in agriculture, in a way that used the least amount of land, he decided to hatch eggs.  The hatchery was a part of the nation’s industrial growth, and now is part of the aftermath of the corporate growth that metastasized from it.

A great article was recently published in the Washington Post, questioning why small businesses have in the recent years become so endangered.  It was a valuable and serious look at how during the beginning of the 20th century, our government leaders knew the importance of protecting small businesses in communities across the country, that it was the only way to build healthy communities.  And interesting how in the last two decades of that same century, government leaders chose to remove those protections.

Since then we have all witnessed what that led to.  Here at the hatchery we have a Honolulu Advertiser article taped to a wall in our office about the closing of Hamada Store in Kaka’ako.  In our hearts we carry a string of similar closures:  Wisteria Restaurant, Honolulu Bookstore, Flamingo. And more invisibly, the continuous closures of our farms.  There are a few more dairies left in the state.

The article mentions something we have gladly recognized as well, however.  This is the resurgence of everyone’s growing awareness of the critical importance of supporting our local businesses and farms.  A key and measurable sector of the market has involved the growth of artisan food purveyors who partner up with local farmers and farmers markets.

We feel that there is a movement underfoot.

Like all movements, it will not get anywhere unless we make a commitment to help each other.

Coming across the article inspired us to talk a little bit more about the intent and inspiration behind the growing of the country store part of the hatchery.

We will continue to do everything in our power to keep our hatchery alive.  It has been difficult and we are not out of the woods yet, but we are committed.  The country store component will grow organically alongside the hatchery, and may even be able to fund some very creative food-growing and supportive projects that we hope are in the hatchery’s future.

We’ll keep you posted.   And as always, thanks for being here.  There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t feel lucky for having such great customers!

Hatchery and Country Store

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Well, it’s nearly official.  We’re expanding the hatchery slowly into a country store.

Why?  Because it’s fun and because there are so many people growing very ono and special things and we want to make sure as much people as possible have access to them.

We started off with carrying the freshest eggs in the world, from our friend Sharon Peterson Cheape’s family farm, Peterson Upland, in Wahiawa.  Then we began bringing in dwarf fruit trees ready to plant from our friends on Hawai’i Island.

And now we are please to announce that you can find award-winning, whole bean coffee from Ka’u, on Hawai’i Island.  What makes Ka’u coffee so special that we made it a point to feature it at the hatchery?

Well, it’s about supporting family farms.   Once you hear the story of Ka’u coffee, you’ll know what we mean.

Ka’u, the most southern district of the most southern island, is also the most southern point in the United States.  It is huge, O’ahu could easily fit into it.  It used to be sugar cane land.  When C. Brewer closed down that plantation and mill, a lot of people lost employment, entire families who were second or even third generations working sugar.    It was hard, but an opportunity did spring up.  The plantation land became available and it was affordable.  Some of the families started to grow coffee, and it took, and so many coffee farms were born.  Not only did the coffee take, but the coffee coming out of Ka’u was more than anyone expected, it was extraordinary.

This is not only due to the land, of the terroir – the specific chemical make up of the soil and water and air, but also, a reflection of the immaculate care that the former sugar cane families put into their trees, choice of trees and beans.  Ka’u coffee is hand-picked, hand roasted in individual batches.  This has won them international cupping awards and acclaim.

Another extraordinary thing about Ka’u coffee is that many of the coffee growing families help eachother out and are working together to put Ka’u on the map as a place where excellence grows..

At the hatchery currently, we are working with a Ka’u CSA that is helping to market coffee by farmers who do not have the infrastructure or network to get their coffee out far.  We like helping out, so for now we’ll be featuring the CSA’s current farmer Mr. Manuel Marques.  Our next blog post will be a story about Mr. Marques and his farm.  So stay tuned.

This coffee is so incredibly smooth and flavorful, a real pleasure.

We’re selling one pound bags of medium and dark roast whole beans for now.  We’ll also do mail order if you are off -island and interested in trying.  Just let us know!

First Heritage Hatch of 2010: Order Round Up

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

We’re rounding up our first specialty hatch order for 2010 and just checking in with folks who emailed recently asking about it. We’re hoping to get the order in by Feb 16.

Here is a list of heritage breeds available this year so far. Please keep in mind we are not able to sex these breeds so all chicks are sold as a straight-run.  The price per chick ranges between $5-$10.  Please place your order as soon as possible, we’re shooting for February 16th deadline, which would place the hatch just around the 3rd week of March.

-LARGE BREEDS:  Rhode Island red, Plymouth Barred Rock, Golden or Black Sexlink, Buff Orpington, Black Australorp, Austra White.  Araucana (blue egg layer), Silver or Golden Laced Wyandotte. Light Brahma, Columbia Rock, White Crested Black Polish, Blue Polish.

-BANTAM BREEDS:  Barred Cochin, Birchen Cochin, Blue Cochin, Buff Cochin, Golden Laced Cochin, Mottled Cochin, Partridge Cochin, Red Cochin, White Cochin, Black Silkie, White Silkie, Mille Fleur, Buff Brahma, Dark Brahma, Light Brahma, BB Red Old English, Blue Laced Red Wyandotte, Black Spanish, Golden Seabright, Silver Seabright, Partridge Rock, Silver Penciled Rock, Turken.

Good to do a little research if you are not familiar with some of the breeds.  If anything it adds to the fun.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is a great site to visit.  ALBC is a non-profit organization working to spread awareness about and to protect over 150 livestock breeds from extinction.   It lists and gives great historical and particulars on breeds of poultry that are hovering near the brink of extinction.  By choosing to raise endangered breeds, you could help this effort.  Why is this important?  Over the last 60 years, corporate thinking has influenced diversity out of farming.  So much so that nearly all of the chickens being raised in the US are one of 3 breeds – either specifically for egg laying or for food.  The multi-purpose farm chickens, as well as the fancy show birds populations have dangerously dwindled.  Now with backyard keepers, however, populations are up!

Backyard Chickens also has a pretty good chart with pics.

If you are interested in ordering, please email us or give us a call.

Also, please sign up for our e-newsletter if you’d like to be kept up to speed on:

– next hatches order deadlines

– new chicken and food-growing tips

– new product announcements and specials

Take care and see you later!