Farmer Profile: Manuel Marques

Here is profile of the Ka’u farmer whose  bags of whole bean, hand roasted coffee we are featuring right now at the hatchery.  Please come by, lend your support and treat yourself to some exquisite coffee.  And please, spread the word.  More profiles of more farmers and their great work to come.

Ka'u coffee farmer, Manuel Marques

Farmer Profile-Manuel Marques

Manuel Marques farms eight magnificent acres of coffee orchards at 1800’ elevation in Cloud Rest Coffee Park at Moaula, located in the Ka’u district on the Big Island of Hawaii. Manuel has a reputation among his peers as an outstanding farmer and is locally famous for his extensive collection of aloha shirts. He tends to his coffee trees meticulously. Manuel’s coffee scored 11th place at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 2008 International Coffee of the Year Cupping Competition in Minneapolis.

As a child in the 50’s, Manuel helped his father, Manuel Sr., raise coffee at Milolii mauka– south of Kona. His father had a five acre farm of his own and managed five additional farms for a total of nearly 100 acres. His entire family, father, mother, and five children would go to the coffee farms on Friday night and stay in the coffee shacks there until Sunday night. They would work from dark to dark picking coffee or tending the coffee trees.  In the late 50’s and early 60’s the prices for Kona coffee began to decline.  By 1964 Manuel’s father had given up on coffee farming.

As a young man Manuel lived and worked Honolulu for number of years, first in the body and fender business, then he worked for a cab company before starting his own cab company. In 1978 his father asked him to come back to Ka’u. Manuel worked for the plantation from that time until the plantation closed in 1996.

“I worked for the [sugar] plantation. I worked my way up the totem pole, starting at the bottom. I started out as a field hand, drove a truck and then was a crane operator. The plantation was a good life. They asked us to take a pay cut. I wanted to take one, but the people voted no. The layoffs started right there. The money stopped flowing”

Manuel started coffee seedlings 3 months before the plantation closed as he knew that his ex-employer would be offering agricultural leases as part of his severance package. He farms that same leasehold today.

Manuel’s coffee is a distinct blend of yellow and red Caturra from Moaula, Catuai from Oahu and Guatemala Typica. The latter is a very old local strain that is fully adapted to its environment. This unique blend of varietals helps give Manuel’s coffee fabulous aroma and contributes to its complex yet balanced flavor profile.

Manuel’s coffee is entirely hand-picked, processed in small batches and sun dried.

“My favorite thing about coffee farming is seeing the trees grow, making something beautiful.  I love that. You have to feed the trees and not let them get stressed. Then they will produce good coffee.

“What I would like to see for Ka’u coffee in the future is the equipment and facilities to do everything here, all the processing.  That would turn Ka’u coffee into an industry for Ka’u.  That would be great.”

This profile was sent to us by the Ka’u CSA who is helping Mr. Marques find a market for his coffee, Ka’u Local Products. © 2010 Ka’u Local Products, LLC

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