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Fox Forest Farm: Chicken Broilers
The Fox Forest Farm, located on Kapehu Road in the Papa’aloa Homesteads area near Laupahoehoe in North Hilo, is run by Shane Fox with the help of wife Christie, three year old daughter Anna, and Honey Girl, the family dog. The 17 acre farm is a breeding home for organically raised broiler chickens, and in addition manages 7 cows, 1 ram, 19 ewes and a couple of hens for eggs for the family’s consumption.
Shane, whose day job is as a ranger on Mauna Kea, has been farming for about 10 years, but didn’t start the broiler chicken operation until about 7 years ago after reading the book Pastured Poultry Profit$ by Joel Salatin. Salatin's farm and methods have been featured in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma and the documentary movies Fresh and Food, Inc.
The baby Cornish x Rock meat birds are ordered from the only hatchery in the state of Hawai’i, Asagi Hatchery in Oahu, and are flown to the Big Island within hours of being hatched. Shane explains that he could probably get the baby chicks cheaper from larger hatcheries on the mainland, but in trying to live a sustainable life in our islands, he prefers to spend the money as locally as possible.
Because the chicks need protection from drafts, cold wet weather, and predators, they spend the first 12–14 days safely inside a brooder in their greenhouse, rigged with electric light bulbs for heat. They are let out to pasture for a couple of hours a day during nice weather “under supervision”.
After a couple of weeks, the chicks are able to tolerate cooler temperatures. If the weather is good, they are put out into their pasture shelter as soon as possible so they can enjoy the benefits of what Shane calls a daily salad bar of grasses, legumes, weeds, bugs and other goodies they love to nibble on. Their main feed, Natural Nutrena Meatbird Complete, stays the same from start to finish during their growing process, which takes about 5 to 6 weeks.
The farm plans to raise a couple of batches of about 100 chicks this year and possibly expand to a few more batches next year.
Advertising is mostly by word of mouth and repeat customers. A few days after receiving the chicks, Shane will send a mailing to friends and to the members of the Big Island Self Sufficiency Yahoo! Group (BISS) and within a week, all futures on the batches are sold, including the livers, hearts, gizzards and feet.
The processing of the broilers is done at their location and all pre-sold chickens, innards and feet will be picked up by their clients on the same day. Clients bring their own coolers with ice, ready to pack and transport the broilers home.
The 4-6 lb pastured broilers sell for $4/lb. The livers, gizzards and hearts also sell for $4/lb. The feet sell for 4/$1.
Interview with Shane Fox of Fox Farm
Sonia R. Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka’a. She is a contributing writer for Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine and has her own food & garden blog at soniatasteshawaii.com