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"The farm" we eventually found...
Already had a nice mixture of both old established Coffee Trees and some that were much younger, but plenty that were
in full glorious production.
It was no "play farm" -- with almost 12 acres in two adjacent plots with an existing house, this could be a full time job.
Located miles up a mostly dirt, winding roller coaster ride sort of road. We would be far enough up where we could peer
down and see much of the coast, down to the City of Refuge directly below us, South Point, and the Captain Cook
Ric actually grew up on the Big Island, on the West Side in South Kona for the most part. As a young child he remembers
going into the coffee fields to play while his mother (who like many local people) picked coffee for some extra income.
Back in those days it was $3 a bag. Moving away in the early 70's to join the Marines, not to return back to live took over
30 years. Ric learned that while he was away coffee pickers got a whopping $25 for a full hundred pound bag! Of course
these days it's more around $100 a bag and up.
We started vacationing to the Big Island back in 1982 (which was the first time Mike had ever been to the Big Island), and
the first time Ric had been back since moving to the Mainland for seven years. In the the mid 90's we started coming back
every year for a vacation like it was a tradition. Hawaii held a special appeal that was impossible to get out of our "blood"
and so finally we established a house here in 2001. We flew back and forth between the Mainland and Kona (staying
approximately two months on each "side") and then moved completely to Kona in April of 2005.
Before it occurred to us ("forest for the trees") to consider coffee farming we also got to investigate many business
opportunities and learn a lot about the culture. We certainly had not first thought of running a coffee farm, and to many
people who grew up in Hawaii coffee farming is not considered a happy memory or very glamourous ("what are you crazy
or something!") but we usually try to keep an open mind and I happened to casually start noticing the number of coffee
farms there were, I noticed the Kona Coffee all over the stores. I had noticed before but now paid attention to the fact
several coffee farms had been advertised for sale.
We only turned our full attention toward Coffee Farming after a short yet seriously intensive study lasting over six or seven
months. At that time we had uncovered enough pieces of the puzzle that fit together to make a plan or pattern to follow
The research included collecting reams of printouts with definitions, references, procedures, formulas and speaking to a
couple of dozen people and communicating with probably as many as that in emails and forums.
If there were over 500 or even 600 existing Kona Coffee Farmers (no one seems to know exactly!),
Most any average person could watch, learn and gather information from those who had done it before and by doing so
follow the proven steps that had lead to many of these farmers' success. It also seemed many lived apart from the faster
paced metropolitan life, many seemed happy and friendly, many seemed to live healthy lifestyle choices and participate in
environmentally sound practices -- all in all an attractive lure.
(1) You should factor in a sufficiently large piece of land. That's so that the size could support the number of trees you
would need, to generate the amount of raw coffee you would need to harvest, to yield the amount of processed product
you needed to sell.
(2) The more steps of processing you do yourself with your own equipment (rather than hire done by a third party) and the
more steps you took the coffee directly to the consumer, the more return you would get from your efforts and therefore the
more likely you could balance your budget.
(3) Significant productivity for coffee trees that you plant takes three years or more! It can take longer in reality because
most land will need to be cleared of current growth before planting, and planting can be a challenge if your property is
rocky or slopped. Unless you have money put away to live on while you have land cleared, plant the trees, then wait for
them to grow, you should buy a farm with sufficient existing trees.
These bottom level "needs" for a coffee farm that everything else is based on could be briefly summed up like this:
If you desire to live on a coffee farm as a full time lifestyle, you will need a sufficiently large property that has the capacity
to generate enough income to support you and keep the farm running happy; you should plan to do as many steps as you
can handle yourself; you will need to sell your coffee direct if possible; and unless you have money put aside to support
you while you wait, you should have access to enough trees to generate the income you will need to live on and allow the
farm to function and grow.
We didn't have funds to wait while land was cleared, seeds were planted and trees were to grow up, so we would be
restricted to existing properties that had mature producing trees; the cost of each subject property would make it apparent
how many productive trees you would need on any subject property -- and so we had a flexible model to work with.
We found several places that we looked over, finally deciding on a property in the Rain Forest of Honaunau. It addresssed
the Coffee Farm Parameters well, gave us "Country Living" in a secluded environment along with a nice cool elevation.
Plenty of natural water that fell in the afternoons most days. As soon as we arrived we kept being told about the
Sacredness of the Land. There were lava tubes. There were fresh avocados, fresh citrus, a garden with tomatoes and
peppers. Peacocks, chickens, lot of glorious trees in every direction. Yes, get up and take twelve steps and "you are at
Since we had the continual experiences of being on the Island six months out of the year for over five years -- our choice
of where to live was not by accident or rash decision. This particular farm seemed to go hand into glove with our MOST
favorite area of the Big Island, had the right size of land to support us, had a decent amount of trees already producing
coffee, and we got to sample the coffee from the farm and drink it -- it was all just wonderful.
Regarding the decision to turn to coffee farming as a lifestyle and way to make a living:
The times change, new methods are introduced, better equipment is built; established coffee farmers age or move on to
other interests, then replacements come to fill those shoes and take over the care taking of the farm and the farmlands.
Two pivot points cemented our decision to go forward to get a coffee farm and become coffee farmers.
10/1/05, We attended
the Small Equipment
Seminar with speaker
Ken Sheppard. We got
explained most of the
steps and made it more
apparent that the
processes could be
learned and applied.
Even more than two
years later, Ken remains
helpful and he since this
seminar became the
second president of the
11/05/05, We attended the
Coffee Festival Art Stroll. We
had heard pros and cons, but
these two coffee farmers
(Joanie and Ron Rowe) gave
being coffee farmers: ALL
"There is nothing like getting
up in the morning and walking
outside and there is your
work!", Ron said to us with
"Go for it, you will not regret
it!", Joanie said...
As fate would have it, these
people are almost our
neighbors, they live just down
the road and aways from us!
ONOLISICIOUS (oh-noh-LIH-shee-uhs) - really
delicious, really good, really great
That's what our Kona Comfort Coffee Is!