Buying a coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii can be a rewarding experience. Living on the slopes of Mt Hualalai with beautiful vistas, year round perfect weather and a crop of delicious coffee is a pretty good way to spend some time. That's why many people move to Kona every year and do just that. If your dreams include owning and operating a coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii, I am the real estate agent to help make it happen. But first, here are a few things you need to know about being a coffee farmer in Kona, Hawaii.
1. Growing coffee is a labor intensive business. The coffee cherries need to be picked by hand as they ripen on the tree. You only want to pick the ripe red cherries, so it is done today as it was 100 years ago, by hand. Fortunately, there are many experienced coffee pickers that go from farm to farm, picking ripe cherries when the crop is ready.
2. What if you want a Kona Coffee Farm but don't want to do any of the labor? Good news, many multi million dollar estates in Kona have neat rows of beautiuful coffee trees and the owners just sit on the lanai and enoy the view. There are companies that manage farms in return for a share of the crop. I know of some very good ones and it doesn't have to be a multi million dollar estate.
3. Elevation matters. The climate in Kona changes with the elevation. Suitable elevation for growing coffee is between 800 feet to 3,000 feet above sea level. The lower the elevation the dryer and warmer it is. Some prefer to grow at the upper end of the range because they say the beans grow larger but most consider an elevation between 1,000 and 2,000 feet the best.
4. Not all coffee orchards are the same. There are many variables that affect coffee quality and yield. Are the trees too close together? Is the soil suitable? Are the trees being fertilized and pruned properly? All of these questions can be answered by a knowledgable Kona coffee expert with a visit to the property. I know the guru and I'll be happy to bring him out to analize the property before you buy.
5. Water supply. Many Kona coffee farms are at an elevation that provides ample rainfall to grow coffee. But what happens if there is a drought and you are 100% dependent upon rainfall? Your crop will suffer. Having access to county water is a big plus, especially if you are starting your farm from scratch with plantings. Many parts of the Kona coffee belt do not have access to county water. Often catchment tanks can get you through a dry spell.
6. Does the farm have processing facilities? After coffee is picked it needs to be pulped, dried, processed and roasted. You can pay to have this done, or if you have the equipment, you can save money and do it on your farm.
7. Does the farm have a label and customers to sell the Kona coffee to? You can design your own label and start selling at farmers markets, a web site, local stores etc., but it's easier to start with established customers. Other options are to sell cherry or green beans to wholesalers but you make more money if you sell your product retail.
8. Buy at the right price. Once you find the perfect Kona coffee farm and want to move forward with the sale, it's important to have an agent that can show you comparable sales and determine a current market value for the property. My brokerage is located right in the heart of Kona coffee country in the community of Holualoa and we have the experience in these types of transactions that you need.
9. Kona has a lot of leasehold coffee farms. Some of the best coffee growing land is owned by Bishop Estates, formerly owned by Hawaiian royalty. Bishop Estates grants long term (usually 35 years) leases and as long as you are farming the land they will keep extending the lease. You can live there your whole life and pass it down to your kids if you want. You are also free to sell it to another farmer. These properties sell for around half the price of a similar fee simple property.
I hope this information has been helpful. There are many other things that you should know about real estate in Hawaii and with my 20 years of experience, I am happy to help.
Rich Bosselmann R(S)