A new appreciation for coffee

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I have heard many great travel stories from friends and acquaintances.

Want to know one of the first things I find myself wondering as I listen? I ponder what type of crops grow best there.

Hawaii

One woman, I got to know over the years, sold her business a few years ago and moved to Hawaii. She had visited there several times and decided it was now or never.

Everything she owned went up for sale, even her aging, beloved horses.

She was not only down-sizing, she was re-sizing every single thing about life as she knew it.

My genuine first thought about her new home was about coffee farming. Could it be done?

How much land would be required, at what expense, how much hired help, and what in the world would a person do for fertilizer on a Hawaiian island?

My curiosity prompted me to read up on it.

Coffee trees

Blair Estate Coffee on Kauai shares much of the general overview of owning and operating a coffee farm there.

It quickly shoots down the idea of living in luxury. A total of 623 coffee trees could be planted per acre, following the recommended 6 feet between plantings and 12 feet between rows for best sun exposure, with planting season November to January.

Each tree is planted by hand with great care and pruned for optimum growth. An irrigation system is highly recommended, or consider employing enough help to hand-carry water if a dry spell should hit.

Potash and nitrogen, along with composted husks from raw coffee harvest are the primary sources of fertilizer. August through October is the harvest season.

Hand picked

On the Blair Estate Coffee website, these words could apply to many growers: “Now comes the test of the true farmer. It has been my experience that the healthier the coffee…the healthier your attitude will be for harvesting it.

“For most farmers, it is this time of quietness and serenity that defines the coffee farmer’s lifestyle. Picking coffee by hand takes time and patience and there is still no better way of harvesting. Mechanized harvesting methods can not come close to matching the human eye and hand of what gets picked.”

The coffee “cherry” is to be picked only when ripened all the way red, and the sweeter the taste, the better the coffee.

Since this is all hand-picking, farmers are advised to place a sign “Pickers Needed — paying 50 cents a pound.”

I am trying to imagine how this hoping for labor would go, year in and year out. After the picking, there is much more to be done: pulping, fermenting, washing, sun drying, dry hulling, grading and roasting.

Then the coffee is either sold outright or marketed by the farmer.

New appreciation

Learning just the very basics of coffee farming changes my level of respect, realizing I owe much more gratitude for the bag I buy and brew each morning.

It takes roughly 70 coffee beans to make one 8-ounce cup of coffee. That means a whole lot of labor, just in harvest alone.

I sit on my back porch this early morning, looking over the pastures and crop fields, a steaming mug of tasty coffee topped with frothy, fresh cream from a local farm in my hand.

It took a whole lot of informed steps from two very different and yet similarly labor-intensive agri-businesses to bring this product to my little spot in the world.

The rich taste, always the best way to start the day, carries a whole new level of valued goodness.

No one, anywhere, should ever complain about the cost of coffee or the cream that makes it even better.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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