How much coffee does this farm produce?

This question is asked constantly. It’s often a lead-in to, “how much money will I make on this farm?” The answer to both is “that depends…” I’m not trying to avoid answering the question, but I believe sometimes the complexity of the question is not grasped by the asker. Historical production records are the best place to start, but may not tell the whole story. Here’s why.

The first indicator of how much coffee cherry can be produced on a farm is the number of trees. While the amount of cherry produced per acre varies from year to year, (depending on pruning, rainfall, fertilizing, storms, etc.), one relatively fixed component of cherry production is the number of trees per acre.

Trees per acre is a strict mathematical computation of spacing of trees. Older Kona Coffee farms were planted on an 8ft by 8ft grid giving about 680 trees per acre. More modern farms, with mowed grass between the rows, tend to be planted closer within the rows and have wider space between rows. 6ft by 10 ft spacing would give gross trees per acre of 726. Mathematically, trees/acre = 43560/(length X width) in ft. Any road, houses, sheds etc would be reduce that number.

So here are three questions I always ask when viewing a coffee listing.
1. “How many trees are on the farm?” The number of trees multiplied by an average cherry production per tree will give a rough guess on cherry production.
2. “What is the tree spacing?” I also usually ask this as a cross check.
3. “Are the production records available?” This reveals yield, not profit.

See, I told you this was a numbers game. It’s a bit like mental gymnastics. More production variables to follow.

Fred Cowell, R(S), Kona Home & Land Realty LLC
(808) 323-3300 office, (808) 936-3032 direct, (808) 323-3309 fax

Coffee Numbers Game

Welcome to October,

The town is buzzing with activity with the Ironman Triathlon World Championships this coming Saturday. There are lots of numbers: up to 1800 competitors doing a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile run. Months of preparation leading up the big day. Needless to say, it’s an incredible numbers game for each of the participants.

Coffee farm ownership is likewise a numbers game. I often get questions on the numbers. I’ve heard some outrageous claims of production numbers, growing costs, and net profits. As with anything, it pays to do your homework. Often, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true. There are also many good “rules of thumb” to go by. I’ll try to cover some of these later in later individual segments.

One of the best sources of coffee numbers is through the University of Hawaii, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). Anything related to agricultural production can be found under their roof. Be careful, it’s a little like drinking from a fire hose. links to numerous publications, both free and for sale. Search for coffee from here.

More specifically, this link will take you to a 1998 fact sheet with spreadsheet covering coffee economics:

Dive in, enjoy the numbers. It may prompt more questions than answers, but be reassured that answers are available from reliable sources if one knows where to look. I’ll be happy to be of any assistance in pointing you to the sources or pointing out good coffee properties. Drop me a line anytime.

Until next time,