Mahalo to Honolulu Weekly and writer Martha Cheng for coming to the hatchery to talk stories about the backyard chicken movement happening in Hawaii. Fun article.
We’ve been following the national backyard chicken movement pretty closely.
Every day at least two articles about backyard chicken keeping comes through the google news feed. There have been uprisings and heated county debates over the last two years as citizens force local government to rethink their anti-agriculture policies.
Many chicken lovers and food lovers have found themselves in a fight for their right to keep a few chickens and reconnect with their own food growing instincts, regain control over their food sources and security, and begin to extricate from a dangerous dependence on global corporatized food.
Every once in a while a real gem of an article comes through the feed. One that captures the essence of the desires and fears of our times, as played out by the characters of Governing Body and Citizen.
Here’s a dispatch from Dan Brawner of The Mt. Vernon-Lisbon Sun, Iowa.
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My mom just told me that one of our regular customers came in today, he has 3 Rhode Island Red/White Leghorn hens. While telling my mom how much he loves them, he mentioned their names: Barbie, Teri and Ginger. Pretty creative, cute and ironic all at the same time.
It gave us the idea to start a never ending list of the names of chickens that have hatched at Asagi Hatchery. It will be a new page on our website. So please send in names of your chickens. First and last names please. If you are are up for it, you may also include their portraits. Email: email@example.com.
Speaking of which. We remember how much you all like the chicken diaper YouTube posts. So when another customer, Wes, emailed us this –
we knew you’d enjoy as much as we did: chicken suit fashion show on Golzberg
Little more than a week ago, the New York Times revisited its fascination with the backyard chicken movement with an article examining if it might also be an indication of how women are responding to circumstances of the present and looking at the future.
Plus we like the title, since we are a female powered business. We also think the continuing discussion and thought about why so many of us are revitalizing the art of chicken raising and food growing is a valuable one.
Here’s a link of to the article here, so have a read.
Let us know what you think about this.
It’s been an intense last couple of months at the hatchery. Mostly because we feel it is a momentous year for us.
Asagi Hatchery makes 75 years in these next months. When we look back we see not only our own journey, but the path of the 20th century that has shaped and affected us all. For better and for worse.
The first 25 years, 1935-59, we started off and grew as a farm and hatchery right on Damon Tract. A place where my grandfather, all of his brothers and one sister worked together and raised their young families. Hatching and raising chickens, selling eggs and chicken right from the farm gate. A real actual wooden farm gate. They really did exist.
1960 marked the birth of the hatchery right here at 1830 Kanakanui Street, a year after Statehood and the eviction of all of the farmers and residents of Damon Tract to make way for industrial development around the Honolulu International Airport. These next 25 years were the Jet Age Waikiki Suburban boom years right up to 1985, the peak of poultry production in Hawai’i.
In 1985 there were over 21 egg farms and 4 broiler operations. Then the decline for local businesses started to accelerate in the late 80’s, with the U.S. government’s dismantling of regulations in business that protected small businesses that were the local and family owned ones. This included farms. This is when we all started to see more of the same stores and businesses in all of our home towns, and the slow shuttering of our own.
This year, marks our 75th anniversary. And we want it to be about more than just surviving. We have chosen to reinvent ourselves, just like our Grandfather Mike did. We’d like that farm part back. But maybe a different kind of farm. We like the country store that Mike’s mom ran and where Mike learned to raise chickens when he was growing up. We like the hatchery part and we better because we are the only commercial hatchery left in this part of the Pacific.
We like the possibilities that the internet has created too and connecting with not only other chicken lovers and farmers, but also island communities all over the Pacific that are striving to build their own sustainable food systems on their islands, and including chickens in those plans.
So along with the day to day operations, we’re changing things around and planting seeds all over the place. And perfect timing, because this year is going to be one hell of a ride for agriculture in Hawai’i, not only for farmers but for everyone.
It’s about food and it’s about liberty. And like our friend Michelle Galimba of Kua’hiwi Ranch said, “It’s about our ability to feed ourselves.”
And not just feed ourselves, but to feed ourselves real food. It’s also about the freedom to just livelihoods as well.
We might grumble about having to wake up at 4:30 to take the chicks out of the hatchers, but it never just feels like a job. Holding a chick in our hands makes the world feel ok again. The smell of an open bag of feed is more comforting than we are willing to admit. We love our customers and stress instantly melts away when we hear those stories of chicken love, like the roommate who would steal one of our customer’s chicken at night when she got home from work, how he would find them both asleep on her bed, chicken nestled in a towel shaped like a nest in the roommate’s arms. He had a cell phone photo to prove it.
We think this is what it must feel like to have a livelihood. The word even sounds like something one should be excited about. And we’re kind of overwhelmed at times, but inside, in our hearts, we’re excited.
At first we thought we needed to have some kind of party or event to commemorate. We’re thinking about it. We’re also thinking of pouring that energy and effort the building and reshaping, the growing. Having the celebration be every day and each step closer to where we would now like to be.
Yes, after all these years. We feel that we are on the cusp of another beginning.
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.
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
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!
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!
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!
We hope everyone has safely landed into 2010 and finding it a nice place to be!
Here are some new developments at Asagi Hatchery:
It’s that time of year again! This spring rings in our third heritage hatching season. Please email or phone your orders in by January 29 for the first hatch of the year. Aracaunas, Buff Orpington, Silver Lace Wyandotte, Mile Fleur, Brahma, Silkies, Cochins, Barred Plymouth Rock, White Crested Black Polish and more!
We’re stocked with an array of dwarf fruit trees ready to plant (into yard or bucket for balcony urban mini-farms), conventional and organic chicken feed, incubators, books on chickens and homesteading, Asagi Hatchery T-shirts, Ant Pro (a not so toxic way to get rid of ants), EM (that wonderful soil and compost amendment), seeds (local and Seeds of Change), and other goodies.
We are also carrying very fresh white and brown eggs (by dozen or tray) from our friend, Peterson Upland Farm in Wahiawa. Call before coming for the eggs, they fly out as soon as they get in.
We’ll be doing and carrying more great things this year, so please keep in touch by signing up on our email list. We’ll be sending out announcements for upcoming hatches, new product, specials and other stuff we think you might be interested in.
Thank you again for your support all of these years.
We feel very fortunate to still be here and a part of our community. We feel so grateful to have such great customers. We love your stories too. So we will be putting up a gallery this year for all of us to share in the cuteness that is chicken, so please email your pics to us too (and please include names!).
Take care and see you soon!