Early in 2021, with the pandemic still raging and life so uncertain, Kona Earth owners Steve and Joanie Wynn had a crazy idea. They'd had a great run with their video production business Bayside Entertainment, but they were ready for a new challenge. They found it in a 26-acre coffee farm in the heart of the famed Kona coffee belt. Read on to learn what their first year as Kona coffee farmers had in store for them.
Year One Timeline:
June/July: The Wynns arrive in Hawai'i to take the reins as new owners of Kona Earth. The first month is spent getting a crash course from previous farm owner Gary Strawn. He kindly gives them insights on everything from farming to business operations.
Steve and Joanie Wynn with their new John Deere tractor
August: The Wynns are flying solo. They have much to accomplish before their first harvest. They purchase a John Deere 4720 tractor, a commercial dryer, and a JM Estrada roaster. Steve works tirelessly in the fields, tending to the trees and familiarizing himself with farm processes. Joanie gets busy setting up the business with licenses, professional organizations, website design, and social media accounts.
September: Harvest begins. Consultant Arturo Ballar connects the Wynns with a talented team of pickers from Costa Rica. They arrive each morning around 6am, pick throughout the day, then drop off their huge burlap bags of cherry in the late afternoons. Steve and Joanie then pulp into the late evening, laying out that day's cherry on the drying deck.
Steve and Joanie with pickers from Costa Rica
November: Black Friday - the Kona Earth e-commerce store goes live! Joanie pushed hard to have it ready for the holiday shopping season and the effort pays off. Despite a few hiccups with FedEx shipping integration, the new site looks great and works well. Orders start coming in and Joanie and Steve start to sell their single-estate coffee farm direct to coffee lovers everywhere.
Farm dog Tickle does double duty as shipping manager
December: Harvest continues and thousands of pounds of cherry make for a very nice Christmas gift. Steve and Joanie appear on KTVU Fox in San Francisco for an interview with Claudine Wong, then Marin Magazine features them with a wonderful article. Looks like Kona Earth is officially launched. Happy Holidays!
Red cherry makes a great Christmas gift
January through March: Pick, pulp, repeat. Harvest continues with picking every 3 or 4 weeks, then processing and drying. Once dried, Steve bags the green coffee and loads it into the temperature-controlled storage room for safe-keeping.
Joanie processes Kona cacao
April, May: With harvest behind them, there is much to do on the farm: pruning, fertilizing, weed and pest control, suckering, and topping. Each tree gets love and attention, preparing it for next year's harvest. Far from being a quiet time, this is perhaps the most critical time on the farm and takes concerted planning, effort, and consideration.
Steve and his farmhand tending to the trees
Rainy season has begun in earnest, meaning almost daily afternoon downpours. The rain is great for the trees but makes getting everything done a challenge. The upside is it give the Wynns time to take on projects at the farmhouse, including painting the exterior, refurbishing the interior and preparing a visitor center for farm tours in the Fall.
June: Happy Anniversary! The Wynns celebrate their first year as Kona coffee farmers. This anniversary happens to coincide nicely with their 25th wedding anniversary and their son Ryan's graduation from high school. 2022 will be remembered as a year of momentous occasions.