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Homegrown Hawaii: 2 Lady Farmers

September 27, 2017

Here at Kunoa, we’re inspired by our clients every day. We’re proud to provide harvest services for businesses like 2 Lady Farmers, Oahu pig farmers who are as passionate about building a healthy local food system here in Hawaii as we are. Here’s their story:

Sometimes when starting a new business, the less you know the better. That was certainly the case for Stacy Sugai when she decided to buy a pig farm. She and her family were already gardening and raising a few animals. “We saw the pig farm for sale and thought, ‘Oh, let’s add pigs to our repertoire.’”

In addition to pig farming, Patsy Oshiro (left) is a USDA agriculture inspector at the Honolulu airport, and Stacy Sugai (right) is a school counselor. 

Stacy quickly learned that pig farming is a 24/7 job — and that she didn’t know anything about raising pigs. As luck would have it, she soon met Patsy Oshiro, a third-generation farmer. They got to chatting, Patsy offered to help, and they eventually became partners. “She pretty much taught me almost everything I know about pig farming,” says Stacy.

Today, the duo is known as 2 Lady Farmers, and they have about 300 pigs on four acres in Waianae. Their farm is one of only two on Oahu that is selling locally grown and raised pork through the retail, farmers market and restaurant markets. It’s available at select Foodland and Sack N Save stores under the PS Pork brand, and is on the menu at dozens of restaurants.

2 Lady Farmers’ hogs are born and raised on the farm, and the meat they produce is all natural with no preservatives added. The women do everything they can to keep their pigs healthy and happy, including feeding them an all-grain diet mixed with a special Hawaii-grown treat — macadamia nut cake, a dry nut meal that’s leftover after a local company presses the nuts for oil. “It smells like a bakery where we store it,” says Patsy. “The pigs love it.”

They have a steady business going now, but Stacy and Patsy had a lot to learn about how to market their product. The established thinking of other Hawaii pig farmers is that they make more money by selling directly to customers. “Customers will come directly to the farm, pick up their pigs, use the facility to kill and clean their hogs,” she says.

The old-time farmers warned that they wouldn’t get the price they wanted if they tried to sell to retailers and restaurants, but Stacy and Patsy persisted and were able to get their pork into Foodland stores. Then Glenn and Amy Shinsato, owners of Shinsato Farm, a supplier of locally raised pork to restaurants, took notice of what they were doing. They were looking to retire and wanted to find another source of quality pork to refer their restaurant clients to. 2 Lady passed the test — their approach and philosophy for raising pigs was similar — and Amy liked that they were two women. “She thinks women make better pig farmers than men,” said Stacy.

From what Patsy and Stacy have seen on other farms, there may be something to that thinking. “Men use their muscle more, whereas us ladies — Patsy and I aren’t spring chickens, we’re both in our fifties — these pigs outweigh us big time,” says Stacy. “You have to use your brain. It’s being gentle, it’s coaxing, it’s using techniques rather than force. I think the pigs respond to that. We talk to our pigs all the time and pet them, things like that.”

Pig farming in Hawaii isn’t without challenges. The cost of feed can be five times what it costs on the mainland, and keeping devastating diseases from spreading is difficult on islands where farms are relatively close to one another.

Even so, Stacy and Patsy are proud to be part of Hawaii’s movement to be more self-sufficient. But she stresses how hard it is for farmers to make a living. “If everybody in Hawaii were to buy a pound of locally produced food a week, it would encourage more farming,” she says.

“At the end of the day, it feels good,” says Stacy. “It feels good to be producing food. It feels good to care for the animals.”