[ HAWAII AT WORK ]
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gary Kumashiro is a state agricultural commodities marketing specialist who spends much of his time inspecting eggs at Eggs Hawaii Inc. in Kalihi. Part of the process involves holding the eggs against a light, called "candling."
The egg man
Gary Kumashiro looks for imperfections in eggs and other food products so you don't have to
Gary Kumashiro has had the same job for 33 years and he likes it that way. Not only does his position as agricultural commodities marketing specialist at the state Department of Agriculture keep him socially involved, meeting and working with people in his field, it also helps fund his frequent trips abroad, like his latest trip to China, which began this past Saturday.
Who: Gary Kumashiro|
Title: Agricultural commodities marketing specialist
Job: Inspects fruits, vegetables and eggs for quality and condition
Interviewed last week before leaving on the vacation, Kumashiro said the essence of his job is to inspect fruit, vegetables and eggs for quality and condition.
He and the other department commodities inspectors rotate their duties between the various categories of foodstuffs, but many of his shifts through the years have been spent inspecting eggs at Eggs Hawaii Inc., based in Kalihi, which takes in eggs from chicken farms on Oahu and processes them for sale under the "Hawaiian Maid" brand.
Kumashiro says he never gets bored inspecting the eggs, even though he estimates he looks at thousands of them every day.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gary Kumashiro held an egg last week against a "candling" light, which revealed a "check" or slight crack on it. Besides eggs, Kumashiro inspects agricultural commodities such as fruits and vegetables, checking for quality and condition.
Before taking on his job with the state, Kumashiro served for several years in the U.S. Army, which sent him to language school in Washington, D.C., for a year before sending him to Thailand where he worked as a Laotian-language translator during the Vietnam War.
He went into the Army right after obtaining a bachelor's degree in horticulture from the University of Hawaii. It was either enlist or get drafted, he said, "so I chose to volunteer."
Kumashiro, now 62 ("I could be collecting Social Security right now"), also is a graduate of Kaimuki High School. He is single and has never been married, though he hasn't ruled it out.
"I'm still looking," the Maikiki resident said last week. "That's one reason why I travel around the world."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gary Kumashiro has been a food inspector with the state Department of Agriculture for 33 years. He put eggs under a light last week at Eggs Hawaii Inc. to check for imperfections.
I was told your title is commodities inspector.
Gary Kumashiro: Yes. Well, actually "agricultural commodities marketing specialist." People ask me, "What do you market?" Even when I first signed up for this job, I looked at the staff position title -- it had "marketing specialist" in there -- but there's no marketing.
Q: You don't do any marketing?
A: When I first started, there was a marketing section within the branch. But then they went and formed their own branch.
Q: So today you're inspecting eggs at Eggs Hawaii?
Q: What other kinds of commodities or foodstuffs do you inspect?
A: We also inspect fruits and vegetables.
Q: Do you personally do that?
Q: How do you rotate on that?
A: We have a list of inspectors in the office, and every week we have a different assignment. So last week I was in the produce section, and this week I'm in the eggs.
Q: Where would you be inspecting fruits and vegetables?
A: We go to various produce companies.
Q: Are those all over the island?
A: They're mostly in the Kalihi area, not too far from our office, so it's not too bad. They used to be all over, but now they're mostly just in this general area.
Q: Do you actually go to supermarkets? Or just to produce suppliers?
A: Yes, the produce suppliers. But we also go to supermarkets and check on the fruits, vegetables and eggs. So wholesalers and retailers.
Q: What kinds of things are you looking for in your inspections?
A: Well actually, the produce companies call because there might be some kind of a defect. For example a container comes in from the mainland and maybe there was a lot of decayed produce. So we go there and make an inspection and report on the percentage of defect that we find. Then we come back to our office and we make a certificate, and then we mail that back to the wholesaler or the produce company, and then they can use that as a guide when they ask for credit from the shipper.
Q: What are you looking for when you inspect the eggs?
A: Same thing: quality. We look at the shell texture, if it's smooth or rough. We also look at the shape, and if there's any cracks in the eggs. We call those "checks."
Q: Are you grading eggs and other commodities according to their sizes or appearance or whatever?
A: Yeah, yeah. We also have a scale, and we check for weight. Some people call and ask us, "How come we just bought large eggs and they're so small?" But we don't go by size. We go by weight.
Q: Are you looking for health-related dangers, too?
A: Well, actually, when I first get here in the morning, we do a sanitation inspection, to make sure the conveyor and the machine parts where the egg is in contact -- all the way until it goes through the washer and through the candling booth -- are clean.
You see, when the eggs first come in, they come in from the farm. ... So those eggs, when they're picked up, they're not clean, and that's why they have to go to the processing plant and be cleaned. So the eggs are washed, and then they're placed in the candling booth. The candlers are pulling all the bad eggs -- the dirty eggs or the ones with checks. So they're watching. They have a candling booth with the light and they're watching.
Q: When you say "they," who is that?
A: The candlers. There's normally two candlers in the candling booth, sometimes one.
Q: And they work for Eggs Hawaii?
A: Yes, yeah.
Q: Are you the only Department of Agriculture guy there every day?
A: We have only one person a day here. Then next week, somebody else will be here.
Q: How many egg processors are there in Hawaii?
A: There's one more across the street: Associated Producers. There's one more in Wahiawa, but they don't have a candling booth.
Q: Do you have somebody out there, too?
A: No. The reason we're here is Eggs Hawaii contracts with us to be here all day. They're running the eggs through and we check eggs randomly.
Do all the eggs go through the candling booth?
A: Yes, the ones we certify.
Q: Do you guys work at Associated Producers?
A: We don't work there daily, but every quarter we go there. Somebody comes here every quarter too, so even if I'm here every day, somebody does a quarterly visit.
Q: Is that random?
A: Generally speaking, yes. We just show up.
Q: Where do all the eggs that you inspect at Eggs Hawaii come from?
A: They're from chicken farms, way out in Waianae, and Waimanalo.
Q: How many eggs do you think you look at a day?
A: How many eggs? Ohhhh ... (Laughter) Too many to count.
Q: What are your hours each day?
A: Well, here at Eggs Hawaii, I'm here at 4 o'clock in the morning; that's what time we do our sanitation inspection.
Q: Do you ever get tired of waking up so early to get to work?
A: Well, after a while you get used to it.
Q: Do you have to get up that early when you're not working at Eggs Hawaii?
A: No. The only reason I start early here is they start processing eggs at 4:30. That's why we have to be here at 4, for the sanitation inspection.
Q: What about working on the weekends?
A: No, we just work Mondays through Fridays.
Q: The egg company, too, or just you?
A: Just our egg inspectors, because they only request egg inspection Mondays through Fridays.
Q: How long have you been working for the state Department of Agriculture?
A: Thirty-three years.
Q: What other positions in the department have you had?
A: Just this one. From day one I've been doing this job. (Laughter)
Q: What were you doing before you joined the department?
A: I was in the Army.
Q: Are you getting ready to retire soon?
A: Well, actually, I could've retired a few years ago, but my supervisor talked me out of it.
Anything change since then?
A: No. Actually, the reason I was going to retire was our office used to be on King Street, by Keeaumoku, and I lived about a 10-minute walk away -- very convenient for me. Then we moved over here to Sand Island, so it's not so convenient for me anymore. But I'm still working because I like to travel a lot. So my supervisor told me, "Keep working and keep traveling, because otherwise you'll spend all your savings and you won't be able to travel."
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Meeting people, working with people.
Q: Anything you don't like?
A: Well ... (Laughter) After working for 33 years, yeah, it's OK. I enjoy my job.
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