LIHU‘E — Farmers have an opportunity to add fresh eggs to their list of wares next year, with tools provided by nonprofit Malama Kaua‘i.
A 2017 survey lists expansion into small livestock production as a top goal among local farmers. Chickens diversify market-day offerings, provide protein, create fertilizer and represent a classic component of farm life — all reasons a Kaua‘i farmer may have for incorporating the birds into their operations.
Malama Kaua‘i’s new Poultry Egg Education Project promises to provide participants with over $2,500 in startup supplies, including 50 hens, and weekly online classes with experts.
“We are primarily a produce-growing island — vegetables, primarily — and I think that adding the chicken-egg component is the next step,” Project Manager Anni Caporuscio said.
The seven-month initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program and the Native American Agriculture Foundation, is projected to create 17 new chicken-egg farms on Kaua‘i by the end of 2022.
O‘ahu chicken farmer Julius Ludovico and guest speakers will provide instruction and advice based on PEEP farmers’ goals and climate zones. Topics include raising chicks, selling USDA-certified eggs, dealing with diseases, building coops and the various ways to raise chickens, from free-range to deep-litter.
Malama Kaua‘i also intends to lower farm operating costs by instituting a buying cooperative for feed and cartons. The cost of feed is the biggest obstacle facing small farmers who want to raise chickens, according to Caporuscio.
“Hawai‘i imports over 10 million eggs per year,” Caporuscio said. “We can start to chip away at that number to become more food secure, but we need to — and can — work together to have egg farms make sense economically.”
Registration for PEEP has not yet opened. It will be limited to beginning farmers, defined as those with less than 10 years of commercial farming experience in the U.S. Malama Kaua‘i’s most recent Kaua‘i farmer survey, conducted in 2017, reported 59% of its 104 respondents identified themselves as beginners.
In addition to beginning farmers, PEEP’s priorities for participant enrollment include veterans, minorities and Indigenous farmers, a press release states.
An informational session for interested farmers is today at 2 p.m. via Zoom. Sign-up information can be found online at malamakauai.org/peep or by calling 808-828-0685, ext. 13. A recording of the session will be made available on YouTube.
PEEP is also seeking an administrative assistant. The paid job includes administrative work and “light, hen-related farm work,” according to the organization.
Scott Yunker, general assignment reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.