100% Kona Coffee
by Les Drent
George Yasuda’s trees
exemplify good health and proper nutrition.
While driving along Mamalahoa Highway, the high and
winding mountain road that traverses the Kona coffee
belt, one can see a countless number of coffee farms.
Some of these farms are tucked into a landscape draped
in overgrown vegetation and shadowed by towering trees.
Others brandish large iron gates at the front and are
surrounded by acres of elaborate rock walls. And yet
others are no more than the front or back yard of a
gentleman farmer and his wife trying to make a little
extra money for Christmas or an overdue vacation.
What is evident is that the Kona coffee industry is
now comprised of hundreds of independent farmers of
varying size, age and business outlook. While some of
these farmers are newcomers who have come to escape
a hectic life of business on the mainland, others have
descended from families that have been growing coffee
for generations. From the very large twenty-five, fifty
and one hundred acre estates to the smaller farms consisting
of only a few hundred trees I see orchards of trees
with varying looks, character, and health. Some farms
contain a mix of beautiful old and knotted stumps that
have endured a century of weather, prunings, and harvests.
These trees, as old as they are, still put out cherry
every fall and stand now as living monuments to the
enduring coffee industry in Kona.
In many cases though I see farms planted in younger
trees staggered across the landscape in no particular
manner. In most cases their branches are devoid of the
dark, oily, pointed green leaves that are intended to
provide for the tree's growth and production of fruit.
While these trees have the ability to put forth quality
Kona coffee many of these orchards are yielding a crop
far less than their potential. For farmers who rely
either solely or substantially on the annual income
derived from their coffee yield, an orchard of beleaguered
trees may be very disheartening. Some say that it is
simply the result of a diverse industry comprised of
many different growers and growing techniques.
Right to left: Samo Lemus
Vargas, Ignacio Ramirez and Enrique Lemus Vargas
of Tiare Lani Coffee. Without careful attention
to planting techniques a healthy and vibrant orchard
is not possible.
It is impossible to ignore the orchards in Kona that
have an almost surreal or utopic look to them. Trees
stand over eight feet tall, every dark green leaf is
spaced perfectly on branches that reach out in rapid
growth; and flowers and coffee cherry are in massive
size, number, and quality. Many of these orchards, planted
and maintained for the maximum production of coffee,
are overseen by expert coffee grower and consultant,
Utilizing a vast array of techniques including special
pruning, planting, and tree nutrient program an orchard
can be transformed into a vibrant and very productive
coffee farm. When you visit one of Yasuda's orchards
it is difficult to imagine why someone would choose
to not use his techniques. Perhaps the two best descriptives
to use when referring to one of his orchards are health
Ignacio Ramirez prunes
the roots on this new coffee tree.
Weighing in the annual harvest from his farms has proven
that Yasuda's coffee orchards more than double the industry
average for production, and produce larger and healthier
beans. From lower elevations to higher elevations Yasuda
understands what is required with the different conditions
that exist from farm to farm. His interest in detail
is clearly visible as farms are laid out in a manner
that utilizes every square foot of land. Even the sun
direction plays a part in how the rows of coffee are
Understanding the importance of a diverse eco system
Yasuda also selects certain trees, mostly ohia, to stand
above the orchards he plants allowing for the native
bird population to co-exist with the coffee. For many
in Kona his services have provided a way to stay ahead
of the competition as well as to maximize the farmer's
investment in not only the land but time and effort
that is needed to grow Kona coffee...... all very important
aspects for a farmer seeking to compete in today's business
of growing and selling coffee.
While I have toured many farms in Kona, I have yet
to see a farm that rivals Yasuda's. George, having been
born and raised in Kona, is eager to help other farmers
struggling with their orchards and for those who are
just starting out. I could recommend no one better.
George's expertise in coffee growing has extended out
beyond the Kona region. He has successfully helped farmers
in Maui, the Hamakua region of the Big Island and now
the Island of Kauai. George Yasuda can be reached at
Tiare Lani Coffee in Holualoa by calling (808) 324-1495
or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim and Vicki Wickersham
of Vikiwiki Kona Coffee.
With George Yasuda's professional consulting
we have exceeded our expectations of Kona coffee cherry
production both in the size of the bean and total poundage.
The George Yasuda new style of planting nursery raised
kona coffee trees in rows; first year pruning; and fertilization
program our coffee farm has doubled the cherry production
from our old-style existing kona coffee trees.
Jim and Vicki Wickersham
Vikiwiki Kona Coffee
I met George after reading in your 2000 Spring/Summer
issue of Coffee Times about his remarkable track record
of producing high yields of top quality Kona coffee.
At the time, Anita and I were interested in either buying
an existing coffee farm or developing one from scratch.
George gave us a lengthy tour of his farms and patiently
explained his approach to producing high-quality Kona
coffee. His obvious enthusiasm for and love of all aspects
Kona coffee was infectious and convinced us to develop
Aloha Moku Hale Malu Farms.
Jim Robinette of Aloha
Moku Hale Malu Farms.
Located at an elevation of 1,000 feet in Kealakekua,
our farm has 24 acres, 18 of which are planted with
about 14,000 trees. The first were planted in April,
2001, are already seven feet tall, and have the deep,
rich, green color of a very healthy coffee orchard.
Their robust growth has produced strong roots that have
withstood the heavy rains and severe windstorms during
the past year. George estimates that during this fall's
harvest the yield of many of our trees planted last
April and May will be 10 to 12 pounds of cherry per
tree. Not bad for the first year, considering the average
yield is about seven pounds per tree for all trees of
all ages on the 600+ farms in the Kona coffee belt!
These extraordinary results are a direct consequence
of George's excellent orchard installation and maintenance
techniques. The land was first bulldozed and graded
before the extensive drip irrigation system was installed.
Using surveyor's tools, George then laid out the rows
such that the trees line up with symmetrical precision,
making the orchard esthetically pleasing. His dedication
to precise farm layout was confirmed when the farm was
re-surveyed after the planting was completed and a deviation
of less than an inch was found in the rows of coffee.
Healthy tree growth (foreground)
and a neighboring orchard of unhealthy tree growth
The trees were selected from a reliable nursery, carefully
planted, and properly pruned. Under George's guidance,
the proper amounts of water and fertilizer as well as
trace amounts of minerals have been applied consistently
to promote robust growth. Periodic shoot removal, careful
monitoring to ensure the irrigation system works properly,
and mowing frequently also contribute to the health
of the orchard.
George produces Kona coffee of the highest quality
on his own farms, as do the farms of his many clients.
His calm, professional approach makes him a delight
to work with and learn from. It's a privilege to count
him as a colleague and friend. I recommend him without
hesitation to anyone interested in growing and producing
coffee of the highest order.
Jim and Anita Robinette,
Aloha Moku Hale Malu Farms
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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