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.