Coffee Farming and Production

Kaelyn Carlson-Shipley
Emphasis Area
Rural Leadership & Renewal

Kaelyn Carlson-Shipley interned with Monarch Coffee in Hawaii and gained experience in coffee farming and production.

Describe your internship experience.

The focus of my internship at the Monarch Coffee Farm in Kona, Hawaii, was to experience all steps of the coffee production process while also learning about the culture of the island. For those who are not familiar, the coffee production process includes hand picking the coffee cherry; running the freshly picked coffee through the wet mill where they go through a series of sorting cameras to get the bad coffee out and let the good coffee through; drying the coffee in a high temperature dry mill and testing the coffee’s humidity levels until they are low enough to be stored and ready for roast; roasting the coffee to the specific level (dark, medium, and light); and finally, packaging the coffee and mailing it out to its new owner or on the shelf for farm tourists to purchase. 

My final project was building a sustainable, self irrigating nursery for experimental coffee tree varietals and shade trees. In coffee production, the farm is looking for specifically two genetic variations that are known around the world as “the best.” These varietals are hard to come by with cross pollinators even though the coffee trees are self-pollinating (bees and other contributors make it difficult to land on the desired genetic makeup). Because of this, the farm is constantly attempting to intentionally stumble across the desired genetics which is why the nursery build was such an important addition to the farm. The nursery is self-sustaining and has everything necessary to ensure the health of these new varieties. Hopefully the nursery trees will pave the way for the next generation of the farm’s success.

Why did you choose this internship?

I chose this internship experience for several reasons. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about unique farming practices and to work with a small-staffed family business (the Monarch Coffee Farm is small but mighty; with only six people on staff, the farm has much room for growth). I also appreciated the chance to experience the tropical climate. I feel that the juxtaposition of Arizona’s climate being on one end of the spectrum and the location of the coffee farm being on the other was a unique educational experience and allowed me to add more tools to my belt. Of course, it was also fun to get to wake up every morning with a fresh cup of coffee and a view of the ocean - it never got old with each sunrise a little different than the one before.

My internship experience has drastically impacted my plans for the future. Following graduation, I plan on moving on island full-time and using my acquired skills to contribute positively and impactfully on the surrounding community.