Two ladies are bringing back locally raised pork with their humane piggery.
Women make better pig farmers. This is what a female pig farmer once told Stacy Sugai of 2 Lady Farmers, a piggery in Wai‘anae. “Men are so much stronger, they can push these guys around,” Sugai says. “We can’t. We just gotta coax them, which means less stress on the pigs.”
Halfway between the coast and the Wai‘anae mountain range, in a decidedly residential neighborhood, Sugai and Patsy Oshiro, the other lady of the 2 Lady Farmers, walk through the rows of pigpens on their four-acre piggery. In the first pen, 400-pound boars sun themselves on a warm Wai‘anae afternoon. In the next row, Sugai and Oshiro stop to pet the sows, who nuzzle their wet noses against the pens as they approach. And then the duo’s favorite part: They pick up a few of the piglets, which are less than 12 hours old. You can tell that Sugai has a soft spot for the pigs, which inevitably prompts the question: How did she end up in the business of raising animals for meat?
At her home in Waipahu, Sugai started with a vegetable garden and a few egg-laying chickens in an effort to be more self-sufficient. Wanting to expand, she began looking for more land. She found four acres that came with a piggery and bought it about six years ago. But Sugai hadn’t anticipated the steep learning curve. It began to show so much that her neighbor, Oshiro, took pity on her.
Oshiro grew up on a family farm that was the largest supplier of Mānoa lettuce on O‘ahu. While today she is an agriculture inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she has also been raising pigs since she married a hog farmer 30 years ago. “I knew what this farm could do,” Oshiro says. “Normally farmers don’t teach others, they don’t give secrets. But, I felt sorry [for her].” Alongside their day jobs—Sugai is still a school counselor at Waipahu Intermediate School—the two do everything on the farm, from welding to marketing to castration.
Most piggeries in Hawai‘i sell directly off the farm, meaning the animals are purchased by consumers who slaughter and clean the pig onsite themselves. But as generations have lost the knowledge and desire to procure their food this way, dwindling business has led to shuttered piggeries. “As a newcomer, I thought, how come there’s no local pigs in the market?” Sugai says. “And then everybody would say, ‘Nobody’s going to pay the price, it’s too expensive, it’s just not going to happen. No one’s interested in local pork.’ But there’s local chicken, local eggs, there’s local beef, where’s the pork?”
So they approached supermarkets anyway. Then, when Shinsato Farm, a piggery in Kahalu‘u closed, its owners introduced Sugai and Oshiro to their chef connections. Today, Foodland carries 2 Lady Farmers pork, and more than 30 restaurants across O‘ahu serve their meat in dishes ranging from a ragu at Mahina and Sun’s to roasted pork chops at DK Steakhouse.
“We love [the pigs] and take care of them the best that we can until it’s time for them to go,” Sugai says. “And that’s how, I guess, I reconcile. While they’re here, we take the best care of them that we can.”
For more information, visit 2ladypigfarmers.com