Monday, January 10, 2005

January 2005, We learn about coffee farming before we start to look for a place to work as coffee farmers

We started actually thinking about Kona Coffee farms in small "what if's) as far back as I believe December 2004. But in January we actually started keeping documents and notes and trying to put conclusions to the details.

Although coffee farms and Kona Coffee was all around us, it is one of those things you can take for granted. There are also car repair shops, grocery stores and massage therapists -- these all blend into "that's the environment" but think "it does not directly affect us".

But then we considered that:
(1) Our favorite area of the Big Island is South Kona, and that is where the majority of Kona Coffee farms are located.
(2) Combine that with the fact that you can live and work at the same place -- that's a definite plus.
(3) Other businesses we had followed or were interested in, none went very far past "just looking".
(4) A number of Kona Coffee Farmers seemed to be successful and happy.

Then it dawned on us (forest for the trees):
Having our own Kona Coffee farm in South Kona would address many important issues:
(1) To be able to live in our favorite area;
(2) To be able to produce an actual product from Hawaii;
(3) To be able to make a living in Hawaii;
(4) To have a simple and laid back lifestyle more in line with the philosophy of Hawaii;
(5) To have hands on control of a small operation as opposed to a big company like we had evolved from.

We spent the next several months trying to learn as much as we could about how farmers work, what they needed to produce to generate what amount of money, what amount of property would it take to hold the number of plants that would yield that money, and on and on.

In other words we wanted to be able to verify to the best of our ability that within some reasonable range, there were existing methods that would yield consistent results. After all we were totally new to this, we did not grow up as farmers, we needed to try to make sure that there were existing "farm recipes" or "plans for operation" or "business plans" we could follow as a guide and not end up assuming we could figure it all out in the process. We did not want to just leap and hope we could figure it all out, we wanted to learn what would make you successful and what might hamper you.

From hearing other farmers' stories, quiet a number of new farmers had simply come over and seen a piece of land and fell in love with it. You hear the same thing happen when people buy an expensive car or a house.

A prospective coffee farmer needs to carefully consider if the farm he is thinking about has the potential to support the costs and the farmer's personal income needs. A four acre farm may be very cute but can it support you? If not, and you have to work two other jobs what will come of the upkeep and potential of the farm? If you have lots of money in the bank -- maybe that is a model that will work, but what if you need to make a living from a farm? Lots to consider and it can't be learned in one seminar or one club meeting, in one day, or in one month even.