Why a coffee farm?
It all started in the summer of 2012, when we decided to move to Hawaii. Doug was pretty unhappy working behind a desk all day (he used to be an interest rate futures trader) and really wanted a big life change of some kind. I was also feeling dissatisfied with my job (as an underemployed attorney in Chicago) and agreed that it would be great to start a new adventure somewhere new. We wanted to move somewhere with great weather and a slower pace of life - not as crowded and busy as the city - and after lengthy discussion we chose Hawaii.
At the time, we did not have any idea of what type of jobs we would get when we moved. We talked about Doug working at a bank (he has a Masters in Finance) or trying out something totally new like an internship at a brewery. I talked about possibly sitting for the Hawaii Bar, waitressing, working at a hotel or in tourism. We were concerned about finding jobs but did not feel like it would be too difficult because we are both skilled labor and had enough money saved up to live comfortably for a few months without a job. As our moving date grew closer though, the stars must have been aligned because I got an amazing offer from the firm I was working at in Chicago to stay on and telecommute from Hawaii!
The great thing about my job security (aside from the obvious) is that it gave Doug the ability to not worry about finding a job and to really reflect about what he wanted to do. We talked a lot about tons of different jobs, but what kept resonating is that he wanted to try his hand at starting a business (he went to business school after all!). It was also really important to us to have a job where we would not be stuck behind computers all day - I mean, when you live in Hawaii it is seriously depressing to have to spend your whole day inside.
We had those ideas in the back of our head when we stumbled upon a few listings of coffee farms for sale on the Big Island. At first, we talked about the coffee farms in a joking way - like "how crazy would it be if we bought a coffee farm?" But even though it seemed like such an unconventional thing for us to do, the more we talked about it, the more we wanted to do it! But obviously, there were a whole list of deal breakers - conditions that would need to be satisfied - if we were actually going to do this thing.
- We needed an experienced farmer (who we knew and could trust) to work full time at our farm.
- We needed a GREAT coffee consultant/farmer to install our coffee (if the place we bought did not already have coffee planted) and to help us maintain our coffee and teach our farmer
- We needed the perfect property - a place in our price range, with enough acreage, good soil, a nice house (not mandatory but helpful), at the right elevation for coffee growing etc.
In our first stages of the idea, we were very excited about the idea of the coffee farm, but we were not all that optimistic that we could find the perfect place, for the right price and find a farm team to make our idea really work. From that point on though, luck/fate/God was on our side because every single thing fell into place as though it was always meant to happen.
Our first step, because Doug and I know nothing about farming and consistently kill our houseplants, was calling my friend Mike who is a farmer in Michigan to find out if he would be interested in moving to Hawaii to be our farm's head farmer. Mike has been one of my closest friends since age 11 and also happens to be a great farmer in Michigan. We hadn't even spoken to a realtor at this point but we wanted to find out if Mike would be interested because we felt like he was the only farmer we would be willing to trust to start a business with us.
When we first asked Mike, he seemed pretty hesitant about moving his entire life to Hawaii (which was honestly what we expected to happen). But after thinking about it for a few days and talking with his family, Mike was even more excited about it then we were! Once we had Mike on board though, we still had to find a coffee consultant and the perfect property (in our price range) - no easy feat!
We called around to a few Realtors to see if anyone had experience with coffee farms etc. We found one promising Realtor with Orchid Isle Properties, who helped us a lot at first. But unfortunately, due to a family issue, she could not devote enough time to our house search and had to refer us to her colleague Patti Kam. Patti is a great realtor and we love working with her! In addition to setting us up with Patti, our first Realtor got us in contact with the amazing Coffee Consultant we were looking for - George Yasuda.
As soon as we talked to George, we knew we had found someone special! He is unbelievably smart and experienced in Kona Coffee growing. He has a great farm (on the same road as the farm we decided to buy!) and has been consulting for other farms for over 30 years! Everyone we talked to in the Kona Coffee industry recommended him and we clicked so well with him too.
Once we had our farmer, Mike, our coffee consultant, George, and our realtor, Patti, we knew that all we had to do was find the perfect property. I will leave that excitement for my next post....