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Take your time to develop new products: Desmond Twigg-Smith

 MG 9544Desmond Twigg-Smith rakes coffee parchment at his processing facility, which is open to the public.Desmond Twigg-Smith of Holualoa Kona Coffee Company grows certified organic coffee and processes from ripe beans through to roasted coffee for sale at his on-farm retail outlet. “We have control of all stages of production, which means we can maintain quality. It is very fulfilling to take our coffee all the way to a final product,” explains Twigg-Smith when reflecting on the wet and dry milling and roasting facilities he has developed over the years. For him, producing products that he can take pride in is much more than earning a living, it’s a lifestyle that gives satisfaction beyond what money can provide.

For Twigg-Smith, organic methods are important for environmental health and for the well being of everyone who works on his farm. Organic certification is a marketing strategy that is well worth the effort, not necessarily because customers will pay more, but because if given a choice, many people will buy organic over conventionally produced coffee because they want to support organic agriculture. In connection with the on-farm retail facility, visitors are welcome to enjoy a self-guided walking tour of the coffee orchard, mill, and roasting facility. Farm visitors have the opportunity to experience an authentic organic coffee farm and processing facility, which creates a customer bond that lasts for years. A primary marketing tool Twigg-Smith uses is rack cards located at hotels, the airport, and many other locations. Currently rack card advertising alone brings in sufficient numbers of retail customers to sell all the coffee produced on the farm, meaning that wholesale sales to retailers are unnecessary.

CI0A1259On-farm shop at Holualoa Kona Coffee Company.Milling and roasting coffee for other farmers is a large part of Twigg-Smith’s farm business, currently with over 200 dry mill customers and 400 roast customers. The key to building this customer base is to provide excellent and timely service. The processing business is based on keeping everybody’s coffee separate, and handling each farmer’s coffee according to their special instructions. Certified organic coffee is also processed, which means extra cleaning steps between batches of conventional and organic coffee and keeping meticulous production logs. Knowing how important having control of processing of his own coffee is, Twigg-Smith works with customers to give them results that they want. Some farmers have been coming back for 20 years.

When working with a specialty crop such as Kona coffee, Twigg-Smith’s advice to new farmers is to start small. “It takes time to develop products and customer relationships, often there is a long learning curve,” relates Twigg-Smith from his own experience. He also advises interacting with customers as much as possible during the development of new products and markets.

This market profile was excerpted with kind permission of the authors from:

Elevitch, C., N. Milne, and J. Cain. 2012.Hawai‘i Island Farmer’s Guide to Accessing Local Markets. Hawai‘i Community College Office of Continuing Education and Training, Center for Agricultural Success, and Permanent Agriculture Resources. http://hawaiihomegrown.net/pdfs/Hawaii-Island-Guide-to-Accessing-Markets.pdf

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