100% Kona Coffee

Growing up in Keauhou-Kona


I learned how to farm because my parents and grandparents were also coffee farmers. I believe granddad may have started somewhere in the mid-1820s, because when dad married mom, it was in October 1908 and everyone had already been working the coffee land.

Tutu ManWhen I was 6 or 7 years old, every weekend my siblings and I went to work on the farm. My part in the coffee field was to dry the coffee, pick the ones on the ground or plant taro.

We learned how coffee was processed in the early days (about 100 years ago) and how to care for the trees. We were told, the coffee berries need to be harvested when ripe. Cannot stay over ripe because if it rains, the berries will fall on the ground.

When I inherited my farm from my parents, these lands were leased to a Japanese family who most likely also worked the coffee land as the coffee trees were already here.

As a young girl growing up in Keauhou, transportation was by donkey, horse or mule. The donkey's name was Charley, the horse's name was Nancy and the mule's name was Johnny. All these animals when called would come to us and take up the farm goods or whatever work we needed them to do.

Back then hardly anyone had a car. If you needed a ride, you needed to be on the roadside by 7-7:30 am and flag a friend passing your way, if not you may not see another car for 2 or 3 hours....sometimes longer.

Our farm is about a mile up the mountain. We start early in the morning on weekends on the old Keauhou Trail, this trail is from mountain to the sea. Back then the early morning seemed colder with alot of mist and mositure on the grass. Today you don't find that. Time seems to have changed things. By noon we would go home.

After a hard days work, we all had to carry wood for our fire place and for cooking, we would also pick fresh fruits. Everyone had to carry something.

During my high school days I was a junior police officer. I needed to be in Konawaena High by 7:00am. My dentist always picked me up in Kealakekua where the Bank of Hawaii now resides. I would walk the rest of the way to my station at the intersection.

I would walk to my classes and at lunch hour and after school I was the campus police. We had very nice teachers and I spent time as a health aide at the dispensary at our school.

During school vacation, everyone picked coffee. No time to play. We picked coffee till all was finished. I would pick coffee and carry 100-110 lbs of coffee for .50 cents (3 bags for $1.50) from morning till night. I am thankful I had Charley, Nancy and Johnny to help me haul the beans to the coffee mill.

Some things I remember. The matinee on Saturday at the Aloha Theater was .10 cents, Mango seed was .5 cents and bread was .10 to .15 cents. Food was cheap back then, but the pay was also very low for all the work we did.

These were very hard times. We planted most of our food and fished, raised pigs, chicken, ducks and milked cows. My dad was a very hard working man and spoke very few words.

I have farmed coffee most of my life and when my children were kids, I had leased 27 acres from Bishop Estate to grow coffee. On the property I had a traditional Japanese coffee house with a dry platform. This was back in 1951. Back then coffee cherries were $5.00 per 100-110 lb burlap bags. Dry beans were 5-6 cents a lb.

I learned so much from my parents that today I'm passing it on to my children. All my children have worked hard on the farm. I never thought one day they would want to farm again, but I was wrong and today I am happy. My name sake and eldest daughter Lily Jr. and hani-daughter really want to farm and continue our family heritage....our tradition.

I am thankful for the beautiful children that God has blessed me with.

Mama Lily






Mama Lily and Lily Jr.

Interview for "Aha'i Olelo Ola
(Hawaiian Language TV) Dec. 2010

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