Farm Chores - Things to do on a Kona Farm
This article originally appeared on KonaEarth. www.konaearth.com/Life/2006/061029/
Before becoming a Kona coffee farmer, I made a living as a computer programmer. I had often considered farming but I had never actually farmed before. When we first purchased the farm here in Hawaii there was a period of several months before we moved here. During that time I knew I was going to be extremely busy once I got here but I had a difficult time imagining exactly what I'd be doing. For example, I knew I'd need a tractor but what exactly would I need it for? Would I use it every day? Would I drive the tractor more often or the ATV? Where would I be going on the ATV? I knew I'd be spending a lot of time outside in the fields but what exactly would I be doing there?
I asked other farmers for examples of what they did every day but all the responses seemed vague to me. It's not that it's a big secret or anything, it's just that every day is different so it's difficult to precisely describe what a typical day is. I don't use the tractor every day but I do use it quite often, whenever I need to move something heavy. I use the ATV a lot because it's the easiest and fastest way to get around the farm. I spend more time on the mower than I thought I would. I also spend far more time fixing stuff than I thought I would. Some times I'll be in the fields for several days in a row, other times I'll get stuck running errands all day in town. Every day is different.
Now that I have more experience with life on a Kona coffee farm, I will attempt to answer the question "What do you do all day?" As an example, here's a list of some of the items that are currently on my To-Do list:
It is the harvest season. There's too much coffee to pick ourselves so we hire a picking crew. The crew does most of the picking but picking is just the beginning. Once picked, the coffee needs to be pulped, dried, stored, milled, roasted, packaged and shipped. Harvest season takes a lot of our time just coordinating things and processing all the picked coffee. Dealing with the coffee has priority over everything else.
Other than coffee, getting a roof on the new barn is currently the number one priority. It can be broken down into several sub-tasks such as painting all the roof trusses, installing all the shear bracing, taking the trailer to town to haul back all the roofing and preparing the trusses before the crane arrives.
Once the roof is finished, there is a lot of other work that still needs to be done on the barn. More blocking, wall panels, siding, painting... there are a lot of little things I haven't finished yet. Now that there's a top deck on the barn I should probably also build some stairs. I need to do some more digging and concrete pouring for the stair footings. There will be five different flights of stairs at various locations. It sure would be nice to get rid of the ramps and ladders I'm using now. Once the barn is done, I'll finally have a place to put all my stuff.
Kona coffee trees are heavy feeders. There is one more round of fertilizing left to do this year. That's 3000 pounds of fertilizer that needs to be spread by hand across the entire farm. I'll finish one field then recuperate for a day or two before starting the next field. The entire job usually takes a about a week. Faster if I have some help.
During the day, we put the goats out in the macadamia orchard. At night we bring them back to their pen near the house. Goats are escape artists. I purchase a sturdy chain-link gate and I installed it nice and straight. Then I installed the fence and when I pulled everything tight, it bent the gate posts out slightly. It's just enough that the goats can escape. To fix it, I need to dig the post out, pour more concrete, then reinstall the fence at a slight angle so when it's pulled tight, it will be perfectly vertical.
Kona coffee country is still fairly rural. Living on an island, we do a fair amount of mail order shopping. To make shipping and receiving packages easier, we purchased a new super-sized mailbox. All I have to do is install the thing. More digging, more cement. It hasn't managed to make it to the top of the To-Do list yet so the mailbox has been sitting in a pile of junk for the past month.
Pick Macadamia Nuts
It's too bad that Kona coffee and macadamia nuts all need picking at the same time. I've been ignoring the macadamia nuts this year because the prices are so low. I would still like to get in at least one round of harvesting. That means I have to mow and clear all the weeds and leaves from under the trees so the pickers can get at the macadamia nuts. It takes nearly a week to get the entire orchard ready for picking.
In addition to coffee and macadamia nuts, we also have several avocado trees that are almost ready for picking. That's another week's worth of work, possibly more this year because all our trees are full. I haven't checked yet to see if the prices of avocados are high enough to justify all the work.
We have about 500 baby coffee trees that need to be weeded, fertilized, watered and protected from the goats. As soon as the harvest season is over and the barn has a roof, then hopefully we'll get a chance to plant the baby trees in our one remaining empty field. We want the make sure the trees are healthy and vigorous so they produce lots of delicious Kona coffee for years to come.
There are several places around the farm that need to be cleared and mulched. There are still large piles of mulch left over from pruning the main macadamia orchard. Spreading around all this mulch sure would be great because it makes a decent fertilizer and helps control the weeds. My tractor has a bucket and I have a trailer. When I find the time, all I'll need is a second person to help with the driving and shoveling. Mostly the shoveling.
There are plenty more items on the list and I haven't listed the recurring items such as mowing, caring for the animals and selling our 100% Kona coffee. Of course there are always unexpected items such as mower repairs, house repairs and the occasional trip to the beach.
I originally sat down to write this list because my brother-in-law, Hart, is coming for a visit. He plans to stay for nearly a month. I plan to keep him busy every second he's here.
About the Author
Gary Strawn is a Kona farmer. Visit KonaEarth.com to see pictures, read about life on the farm and have some fresh 100% Kona coffee shipped directly to you.
Published: May 2007, Last Modified: September 2011