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3:26 PM
 - Hawaii

South Kona Farm Talk Part Two, About Picking Coffee

I've had people tell me, “I would love come over to the Big Island and pick coffee on your farm”. Be careful what you wish for. Coffee picking for a novice is extremely difficult work. A novice can expect to work from dawn to dusk and pick a single 100 pound bag of raw cherry. This will generally net you about $50.00 in pay. You will have a fiberglass basket tied to your waste with some over the shoulder support. The raw cherry is stripped manually from the tree into the basket. When the basket fills it is then emptied into the burlap bag that will hold the cherry. If you will notice the picture of the coffee cherry, that some of the beans are green and some are red. When picking, you only want to pick the red cherry, leaving the green cherry behind. This makes the picking difficult and labor intensive and virtually impossible to automate unless you had some kind of smart robot picker, which would be far too expensive. Since coffee trees can be up a story in height, how do pick the ripe cherry when it is out of reach? Along with the picking basket, you carry what is called a “hooker”. (No cheap Hollywood or Las Vegas jokes please ... ) A hooker is a pole, usually made out of a coffee tree branch, that has (you guessed it) a hook on the end. It can be a metal hook or a sawed off branch. On the other end of the pole, a rope is attached forming a loop. You hook the branch with your hooker you cannot reach and then hold the loop on the ground with your foot, now freeing up your two hands to pick the cherry and land it in the basket.

Needless to say, I only pick coffee when its necessary to “fill in”. I leave it to professional coffee pickers. And they are amazing to watch. I've seen four pickers fill fifteen 100 pound bags in a day.