HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - On their livestock farm in Waianae, Patsy Kaneshiro and Stacy Sugai care for a herd of about 500 pigs.
“I just love being able to work with the animals, just knowing that we’re feeding so many people every week,” Sugai said. “There’s so many companies right now that are buying from farmers and selling to individuals.”
The women are behind the brand 2 Lady Farmers. Stores and restaurants buy their high-quality pork products, but when the COVID-19 pandemic started battering the economy, sales rapidly plummeted.
“A lot of restaurants stopped their in-dining services, and that caused us to lose 70-something percent of our business. So it really hit us hard. We stressed out plenty,” Kaneshiro said.
A turnaround came with help from community-supported agricultural efforts that put local products in consumers’ hands ― and families started buying in bulk, directly from the pig farm.
“People were buying because they were scared that the meat processing plants on the mainland were shutting down because of COVID,” Kaneshiro said.
The gains in retail sales more than made up for restaurant losses, the company says.
"Foodland increased their orders with us, and that was a major plus for us. That made up a big difference," Kaneshiro said.
Despite the state’s severe economic downturn, 2 Lady Farmers has bounced back. It’s a rare pandemic success story, considering the number of businesses that have gone under since March.
"Right now we are selling more than we did prior to COVID," Sugai said.
The women know things can get bad again in a hurry, and their pig farm could take another hit. On the bright side, the pandemic caused more consumers to opt for local offerings.
“The more you guys buy, the more us farmers will raise,” Sugai said. “The more we can bring up the next generation of farmers. I believe that we can make Hawaii food sustainable.”