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Work Exchange Opportunities
Volunteer as a farm intern on our Kona coffee farm.

UPDATE:  Program discontinued.  No Positions Available.

Thank you for your interest in Kona Earth work exchange opportunities.  Unfortunately, we have stopped taking interns and do not have any positions available.  The following is old information that is no longer accurate.  For other possible intern opportunities on farms in Hawaii, check out the WWOOF Hawaii website.

Kona Earth Kona Earth is a small Kona coffee farm on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The Kona Earth work exchange program is for volunteers that are interested in learning about coffee farming and gaining experience as a farm worker, it is not a paid position.  In exchange for working on the farm, volunteers will be provided with lodging and some food.  The exact terms depend on our needs at the time.

Our farm and the island are both beautiful places with lots to see and do.  Living on the Kona coffee farm can be a great experience but it is also a lot of work.  We are not a hobby farm nor a resort, we are a full-time business with a huge amount of difficult work that needs to be done.  If you are looking for a free vacation to Hawaii, this is not the correct place.  Please only apply if you are interested in working on a Kona coffee farm.

We are listed on the WWOOF Hawaii website but all applicants need to fill out the form below.  Our website has many Farm Life articles with lots of pictures and stories about life on the farm.  Browsing through these articles may help give a sense of daily farm life.  Keep in mind that these articles can sometimes be a bit optimistic and no picture can truly convey the tedium and discomfort of spending hours and hours enduring hot, difficult, dirty work.  Below are a few entries that describe working on the farm:

Help Wanted:  Are you willing to work on a coffee farm? What to do?:  There is always plenty of work to do. Farm Work:  Some days are more frustrating than others.
Farming Sucks:  Are you willing to work on a coffee farm? Planting Coffee:  Digging 400 holes for 400 trees. Migrant Worker:  This worker really earned his keep.
Ditch Digging:  Farming always seems to involve digging. Farm Chores:  Several examples of farm work. Mower Troubles:  It's not all beautiful beaches.

Length of Stay

The length of stay is fairly flexible.  One or two months is typical.  Anything less than four weeks means too much training without enough work in return.  Anything longer than a couple months and everyone gets burned out.  We get a lot of visitors so check with us for available dates.  We need to agree on firm arrival and departure dates ahead of time.  We do not accept volunteers that are already on the island.  Do NOT show up until we have approved your visit or else you will have no place to stay.

Some folks may find they want to spend more time working here than they originally planned.  It's also possible that it just won't be quite the right fit.  Either way, it is a good idea to purchase airfare with a flexible return date.  Requests for extended stays will be considered on a case by case basis.  We also reserve the right to cut a stay short at our own discretion and without advanced warning.

Since we are in the tropics there is no off season.  The Kona coffee harvest is from late fall to early spring but there is plenty of farm work to do all year long.  In some cases, the "off season" can be even busier than the harvest season.  Work exchange opportunities are available at all times of the year.

Work Schedule

Kona Coffee There is always plenty of farm work that needs to be done and we will definitely keep you busy.  As a work exchange volunteer, you will not be considered an employee and you will not be paid.  We offer lodging and maybe some food in exchange for labor.  The details vary depending on our needs.  Typically, we expect 30 hours of work per week per person.  Be prepared for a full day of physical labor, 4-5 days in a row, for your entire stay here.

We try to keep the schedule flexible but the work must get done so sometimes it is necessary to work in the rain, on the weekends and more than the typical eight hours per day.  The schedule normally permits three days off every week.  The time off is a great opportunity to go to the beach, explore the island or even find a part-time job.

Work Requirements

No prior experience is necessary.  A positive attitude and a willingness to work and learn is all that is required.  We will thoroughly explain and discuss any work tasks before expecting you to do the job yourself.  In some cases we will be working with you, in other cases you will be working alone.  In every case, you are encouraged to ask questions and ask for help whenever necessary.

Possible work tasks include mowing, using the weed eater, pulling weeds by hand, spraying herbicide, spreading fertilizer, spreading mulch, pruning, trimming, digging, moving rocks, fixing fences, planting coffee trees, processing coffee, drying coffee, packaging and shipping coffee, light construction, painting, cleaning, equipment maintenance and whatever else needs to be done.  The work varies from season to season but there is always plenty to do and we will definitely keep you busy.

Everybody has different strengths and with so much work to do it is often possible to tailor tasks to suit the individual.  At the same time, you should expect to learn new skills and be challenged on a regular basis.  On a small family farm such as Kona Earth, you will experience all aspects of coffee farming from bean to cup.  If you have a specific area you're interested in or a particular skill you'd like to learn, just let us know.

What to Bring

Required Items

Hat - The tropical sun is strong.  In addition to sunblock, you will want a hat to keep the sun off your face and neck.  A wide brimmed hat is better than a baseball cap.

Work Boots - You will want both sturdy work boots as well as lighter sandals.  Your boots will likely get wet so a couple pairs might be good, or at least an extra pair of sneakers and several pairs of socks.

Work Clothes- Several pairs of work clothes that can get dirty, greasy, stained and generally ruined.  Long pants and long sleeves are good protection from the sun, mosquitos and brush.  Shorts and short sleeves are good for those really hot days.

Nice Clothes - A clean, comfortable outfit (still casual, nothing fancy) for going in to town.

Warm Clothes - Nights can get chilly.  No heavy coat required but short sleeves won't be enough.

Work Gloves - Costco sells a 3-pack of leather gloves for $20

Driver's License, Passport or ID

Health insurance information and medications

Optional Items

- Light rain coat
- Rubber mud boots
- Mask, fins, snorkel
- Water shoes
- Small day pack
- Mosquito spray

Not Certified Organic

We don't use any insecticides and we follow many organic practices but we are not certified organic.  Working at Kona Earth you will learn all aspects of coffee farming, both organic and conventional.  We use glyphosate (a common herbicide) and synthetic fertilizers in a way that we feel is both responsible and sustainable.  Farming environmentally friendly yet profitably is not always easy nor straightforward but with a little ingenuity and effort there is usually a workable solution.

Accommodations

The barn has a new, very comfortable guest room with one bed, a toilet and a shower.  We could rent the guest room for $100 per night but have deciding to reserve it for family, friends and volunteers.  The guest room has hot water, electricity and a small kitchen area but no TV, no Internet access and only shared telephone access.  Cell phone coverage on the farm is possible but spotty.  With prior permission, you may access email and the Internet from our home computer on a limited basis.

We are a 15-20 minute drive from town and the closest beach.  Of course with a little more driving there are plenty of other beaches to explore.  In fact, the entire island is surrounded by beaches.  Unfortunately we can not provide a vehicle and there are no beaches, stores or restaurants within easy walking distance of the farm.  We usually go to town a couple times per week and will often offer a ride.  There is a free but limited bus service around the island.  Hitchhiking is also common on the island.  The closest busy road is approximately two miles away.

Food

Farm work burns a lot of calories so it is important to eat well.  We occasionally invite guests to join us for meals but generally you will be expected to do all of your own cooking.  The guest room has a small kitchen area with a refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven and coffee pot.  Depending on the pre-negotiated terms, you may or may not be expected to supply all of your own groceries.  Grocery shopping happens once a week or so.  Items we buy for ourselves are often shared and you can provide a list for your own items.  If we are sharing the cost of groceries then we will pay for reasonable food requests but we will not pay for gourmet items, junk food or alcohol.  We have several garden areas, several different fruit trees and plenty of fresh chicken eggs.  For non-vegetarians, we may also catch the occasional wild pig.

Free Coffee

Of course one of the great benefits of working on a Kona coffee farm is all the wonderful, fresh 100% Kona coffee.  Most people have to buy our coffee from our website but as a volunteer farm intern, you can have all the free coffee you can drink while you're here.  In our opinion, a well caffeinated farm worker is usually a good thing.

Health Insurance Required

Traveling away from home always has risks and farming is one of the most dangerous jobs.  There is a lot of dangerous heavy equipment and difficult manual labor.  Safety is paramount but injuries and illness are always possible.  We require all workers to have their own health insurance coverage (either your own or as a dependent of someone else).  In case of emergency, we will need your your health insurance contact information and two emergency contacts.  Of course we also need to know of any allergies, medication or medical conditions you may have.  If you have any other conditions that may limit your work abilities, that would be good to know too.

It is not required to be in top physical condition as long as you're willing to exert yourself and do your best.  You should be able to repeatedly lift at least 50 pounds and walk uphill while carrying a heavy load.  Farm work always seems to entail a lot of walking, sweating and sore muscles.  Even if you're in good physical shape it can be difficult to keep up the pace when you're not used to the work.

The Rules

The farm is our business as well as our home.  As long as we all respect each other then it should be easy to keep things casual and fun.  We try to be accomodating and flexible but there are a few common sense rules that everyone needs to follow:
  • No drugs, weapons or illegal activities (violation is immediate dismissal, no warnings)
  • No smoking (including in the fields)
  • No pets (we already have plenty)
  • No visitors without permission
  • If you damage, break or lose something, you may be expected to replace it.

Learn and Have Fun

Perhaps the most important rules of all is to learn and have fun.  We are active in the community so you will probably have opportunities to meet other farmers, tour other coffee farms and maybe meet other interns.  During off hours, there are plenty of beaches and wilderness areas to explore.

Farm work can be difficult and the best way to get through it is with a smile.  We're always looking for new adventures and enjoy taking the occasional day off to go play.

Interested?

If you or someone you know might be interested in a work exchange on Kona Earth coffee farm, please contact us with the following information and we will let you know if an opportunity is available.

Name:       Age:  
Email:       Gender:  

What dates would you like to work on the farm?


Why do you want to work on the farm?


Briefly describe any previous farming, gardening or outdoor experience:


Briefly describe any hobbies, skills or other non-farming interests:


Briefly describe your current job or schooling situation:


Describe any conditions that may limit your work ability:


Describe any special considerations such as diet or health:


Please explain any previous criminal history or drug use:


To ensure that you understand what is expected, please answer the following questions:

How many hours per week are volunteers expected to work?
No set schedule, just accomplish what you can.
10 or so hours per week, less if it rains or the surf is up.
We expect 30 hours of work per week per person.
We work 16 hours a day, 7 days per week.

Will there be Internet access on the farm?
There is no Internet access on the farm because we think the Internet is evil.
Internet is only available by permission at the main house.
Internet is available in the guest quarters if you bring your own laptop.
All volunteers will be given a brand new laptop.

What transportation will be provided?
No car is available and nothing is within easy walking distance.
We have an extra car you can borrow.
A rental car will be provided.
It's a coffee farm, we ride donkeys.

How many guests are allowed at once?
The guest room has only one bed.
The tent is large enough for four.
We have room for six people and their pets.
It's a huge farm, the more the merrier.

Is Kona Earth an organic farm?
Yes, Kona Earth coffee farm never uses any synthetic inputs of any kind.
No, Kona Earth does not believe in any of that hippie organic nonsense.
Kona Earth uses both organic and conventional farming practices.
What does organic mean?

Any other remarks or questions?


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Feel free to Contact Us with any questions.  Any addition information such as a resume, picture or references would also be appreciated.  Once we hear from you, we will contact you with available dates and an application form.  Please keep in mind that we get a lot of requests and we can't accept everyone.


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