Up Kona Coffee Industry
by Les Drent
Trent Bateman in his
coffee orchard with his St. Croix sheep and Chinese
Visiting Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation was
like entering paradise. Varying sizes of Kona coffee
trees adorned with succulent coffee cherries grew among
towering hapuu ferns and ohia trees. Birds flew
overhead, filling the morning air with song. Chinese
geese patrolled the plantation, cackling at any intruder,
eating the weeds and putting nutrients back into the
soil; they were followed by the shyer St. Croix sheep.
Any left over weeds were cut down and sent back into
the soil as fertilizer. In the distance the azure Pacific
Ocean stretched to meet the powder blue of the sky.
Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation is unlike any
other Kona coffee farm.
A close up of the organic
tea growing in the rainforest at Mountain Thunder
Coffee plantation. All exemplify the diversity offered
at this organic coffee farm in Kona.
Three years ago, Trent Bateman decided to enter the
Kona coffee industry, cultivating a Kona coffee farm
at the 3,200-foot elevation in Kaloko, North Kona. He
was told Kona coffee wouldnt grow at that elevation.
Today, Batemans Kona coffee trees produce one
of the largest Kona coffee cherries, close in size to
a small olive, with a deep maroon hue.
When Bateman decided to set aside 20 acres of his property
to grow his Kona coffee organically, without the use
of petroleum based fertilizers or herbicides, he was
told it would be impossible. Kona coffee was already
a labor-intensive crop, and growing it organically would
double the workload. Today, Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee
enjoys the distinction of being the first Kona coffee
farm dually certified organic Kona coffee, first by
a local regulatory agency and second by a California
A close up of the Chinese
For Bateman "going organic" just made sense.
Since the plants people consume absorb the nutrients
and whatever else is in the soil, why would you use
harmful chemicals that you would eventually eat? Still,
just saying a product is organic isnt enough.
In order to be accepted as "organic," regulatory
agencies were created to define "organic"
and set quality standards. Hawaiis organic regulatory
agency is Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA),
certified by the federal government. Certified organic
products currently enjoy greater retail returns for
farming responsibly and creating a healthier product.
Trent raking his sun-dried
coffee at his farmís mill.
"Growing certified organic Kona coffee isnt
easy. It is a lifestyle," said Bateman. "We
raise tropical St. Croix sheep and Chinese geese to
maintain weed control and provide fertilizer, now saving
more than $24,000 (each year) in manual labor and the
purchase of animal based fertilizer." He and his
crew of four also tilled the land the way Kona coffee
pioneers did, manually, with their hands. They continue
to cultivate their crop, weeding and pruning by hand,
spreading animal compost and mulch from the husked cherries
as additional fertilizer, and handpicking only the ripest
Through Batemans vision, the number of certified
organic Kona coffee farms have increased since he began
in 1999 to 16 certified organic Kona coffee farmers
today. The increased number is partly due to Batemans
continued work in the organic movement. Currently, Mountain
Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation is the only plantation
to offer both a certified wet mill and certified dry
mill for organic Kona coffee. In fact, the dry mill
is the most modern dry mill having the latest brand
of equipment. It is easy to see why he was selected
as this years Official Gevalia Milling Site for
the 2003 Gevalia Kona Coffee Cupping Competition, a
signature event of the annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.
Kona Spring Blossom Festival
Peopleís Choice 1st Place Ribbons in the coffee
For anyone seeking assistance in organic farming, Bateman
offers assistance to farmers who want to raise the St.
Croix sheep and Chinese geese. "You cant
use just any breed of sheep or geese. These breeds are
perfectly suited for an organic farm because of their
temperament and design," stated Bateman. Both the
St. Croix sheep and the Chinese geese are aggressive
weed eaters, and the geese make very good watch guards.
A gazebo offering the
farmís organic coffee and other organic goods is
now open to the public along with free farm tours.
In addition to Kona coffee, Bateman also grows organic
noni, honey, green tea, black tea, mamaki tea, macadamia
nuts and kokoloua tea. These products are available
for purchase by visiting the web site at www.mountainthunder.com
or by visiting the Mountain Thunder Store in Kaloko,
where visitors (minus the enjoy) can watch Kona coffee
being roasted daily.
Bateman continues his organic farming vision with plans
to host tour groups on his Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee
Plantation. His 20-acre farm includes lush ohia trees
and hapuu ferns, and two underground lava tubes
with its own unique ecosystem. Other future plans include
a bed and breakfast serving meals using only certified
organic products. Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation
is truly Konas organic destination.
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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