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Producing Excellence

Steve Hicks

Kealakekua, HI

Greenwell Farms

Products: Coffee

Size of Operation: 75 acres

In Business Since: 1860

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit Services of Hawaii

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1996

Every morning, the aroma of brewing coffee fills millions of homes, restaurants and shops throughout America. Some of the most highly desired coffee comes from the Kona region of Hawaii, where Greenwell Farms has been raising coffee since the early 1980s, having reentered the market the family helped start in the 1860s but exited in the 1900s.

“My wife's great grandfather was one of the first exporters of Kona coffee, and actually won an award for his coffee at the 1873 World's Fair," says Steve Hicks, current CFO of Greenwell Farms. For the first eight decades of the 20th century, the Greenwell family focused on cattle. In the early 1980s, as coffee shops sprung up seemingly overnight, the current generation saw an opportunity. “At the time, specialty coffee was a new thing, and we caught the wave," Steve says. The company finances its operations and facilities with Farm Credit Services of Hawaii.

Today, Greenwell Farms has its own 75-acre coffee plantation, manages another 120 acres for other farmers, and also purchases crops from 300 – 400 other area farmers. In all, each year Greenwell Farms processes and sells between 5,000 and 6,000 100-pound bags of green coffee that it has grown or has purchased as coffee cherry, parchment and green bean. “Coffee cherry," as the fruit of the coffee plant is called, are red berries, ¾ inch long and ½ inch wide, each containing two coffee beans nestled inside.

The first step in accessing the beans is to remove the pulp, which is then composted and used on Greenwell's fields, with some now being sold to a health food drink company for its high nutritional value. “This is a growing industry, and we're hoping that it will become a great by-product revenue source," says Steve.

The beans are next soaked in water overnight, a fermentation process that breaks down the mucilage surrounding the beans. The beans are then washed and dried, left at this point with a thin layer of what's called parchment around each bean, giving these beans the name “parchment coffee." It takes 4.5 pounds of fresh-picked coffee cherry to produce one pound of parchment coffee. Once the parchment layer is removed, the now “green coffee" is ready for roasting.

Greenwell Farms sells its products to specialty markets all over the world, including direct to roasters like Starbucks or Nescafe, and to intermediaries who funnel the specialty product to smaller buyers like coffee shops and retailers. It also sells online direct to consumers, many of whom have toured Greenwell Farms while visiting Hawaii.

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