Molokaʻi group hatches a plan for food sustainability with chicken raising program
Molokaʻi residents deal with some of the highest prices for things like gas and electricity, but a community farming program has helped control the price and supply of eggs.
Sustʻāinable Molokai set out several years ago to improve food security after a severe drought impacted the population of deer and cattle — some main sources of protein for residents.
The nonprofit organization received funding from the Administration for Native Americans in 2020 to teach homesteaders how to raise chickens for eggs, with help from Asagi Hatchery on Oʻahu.
Participants receive $2,500 in equipment and supplies, including chicks and building materials for a chicken coop.
"We walked these ʻohana through all the various processes, so from raising the chicks, feed and nutrition, flock health and wellness, processing eggs and marketing," said Jamie Ronzello, food sovereignty program director. "Four years later, we've had 35 families complete the program and we've had 10 more that just started."
A lingering bird flu outbreak, combined with feed, fuel and labor costs, has led to U.S. egg prices more than doubling over the past year, The Associated Press reports. Some places in Hawaiʻi are seeing eggs for $9 a dozen, Ronzello said.
Ronzello said the group also works to improve the commercial availability of eggs on the island. Sustʻāinable Molokai launched an eggs-to-market program, purchasing the eggs back from local farmers.
"We just keep seeing the demand go up, and we can't even keep up anymore. Our eggs are sold through a food hub, distributed through food pantries, and can be found in three of our local groceries but usually, they're sold out," she said.
"We're really one of the first in recent history in the county and maybe in the state to go through the process and regulations to buy eggs from multiple farmers, wash and sanitize and package and market those eggs," she said.
One of those farmers is Cameron Hiro. He's also the manager of a salt farm on the island and an owner of Hiro's ʻOhana Grill.
Hiro started with 50 hens and enjoyed it so much that he added another 60.
"I wasn't really aware of this shortage of eggs when I had this in mind. It was just more of, you know, what could I do to diversify the land area? How could I actually make this a business? And how could I actually have enough for the family and neighbors and so forth, and still be able to sell to Sustʻāinable Molokai? That's where I'm at as far as this class," Hiro said. "I'm excited to see what's going to happen in the future."
Sustʻāinable Molokai hopes to launch a course later this year about raising broilers — chickens for meat.
This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 6, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.