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$13,435
24 February 2008

Neighbors Tower Cherry

I just wired $13,435 to Colombia.  A few weeks ago, while researching a story about online phishing, I received an email from a wealthy businessman in Colombia.  He is fleeing his country and said that if I send him $13,435 now, he'll deposit $10 million in my bank as soon as he gets to the United States.  He sounded authentic to me so I wired him some money.  Soon I will be rich!  I plan to hire out all the farm work while I sit on the beach and drink Mai Tais.

Ok, that's not really true, I'm usually smart enough to avoid scams like that.  Actually, I have this complex plan to become a drug lord.  I'm starting by importing some illegal drugs from Colombia.  My secret plan is so brilliant that there's no way I can ever get caught.  In fact, I'm so confident that my scheme will work, I decided to write about it on the Internet before the deal is even done.

Pump Ok, that's not true either.  The truth is, after a lot of research, I finally figured out which coffee pulper I want.  I'm getting the Ecological Wet Mill 2200. It's manufactured in Colombia and will be shipped to me in pieces.  Unfortunately, shipping heavy equipment from Colombia isn't quite as easy as sending a couple bags of fresh 100% Kona coffee through the mail.  My new pulper won't arrive until April or May.

This will be our fourth pulper.  We have a little tiny pulper that came with the farm.  It does a great job except it's slow and tedious to work with.  I purchased two other pulpers as a single unit from our neighbors.  They lived on a coffee farm but didn't actually do any coffee farming.  When I asked if they wanted to sell their old pulper they said "Oh!  That's what that thing is!"

I got a good deal on the neighbor's pulper but have since decided that it's not the pulper for me.  I could make it work but I process enough coffee that in the long run, buying a fancy new pulper will be worth it.  So I spent several weeks visiting farm after farm and asking a million questions about their pulpers.  If possible I'd watch the pulper in action and even help out when I could.

Cleaning All that time spent studying other farmers' pulpers was worth it.  Not only did I figure out exactly what kind of pulper I want, I also gained lots of good ideas.  Talking to other farmers and getting a tour of their farms is very helpful.  Even when you think you know everything, it's always possible to learn something new.

Most Kona coffee farmers are very friendly and cooperative.  There's a large demand for Kona coffee and a relatively tiny supply so we gain nothing by competing with each other.  I'd often stop by for a quick peek at a farmer's pulper then end up spending several hours talking shop.  Get two coffee farmers together and we can go on forever about the cost of equipment, problems with workers, invasive species, crop prices, uncooperative tractors, bad weather and a zillion other coffee farm issues.

Everybody has a different way of approaching a problem.  Watching other farmers helps me figure out what I should do and what I shouldn't do.  For example, my barn is built on a hill but not a steep enough hill that I can gravity feed the coffee all the way through the entire pulping process.  I was concerned about having to pump the raw cherry but after talking to several other farmers I'm confident that, once I get the pump situated correctly, I should be able to pump the cherry without any major pump clogging problems.

Another example is clean-up time and water usage.  I knew pulping was time consuming and used a lot of water, what I didn't realize is how much time and water the clean-up process can require.  Now, when figuring out how to install my new pulper, I will take extra care to make sure I can clean it easily and efficiently without making a giant wet mess everywhere.  Bragging about pulping 30,000 pounds of cherry in an hour is meaningless if it takes another hour to clean up afterwards.

I've seen pulpers that work great and pulpers that don't work so great.  I've seen super expensive equipment and cheap homemade equipment.  I've learned solutions to problems that I didn't know were problems.  I think I've also managed to present a few solutions and help out my fellow Kona coffee farmers along the way.

I'm excited and anxious to receive my new pulper.  I'm not ready for it yet though, I still have to build a loading dock, work platform and all the other stuff I'll need for the new pulper.  It will be yet another very busy "off season".  Once I get everything installed and working, the completed system should really help us crank out pound after pound of delicious Kona coffee.  So drink up!  My fellow coffee farmers and I don't do all this work for nothing!

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