Kauai Coffee Company seeks over 100 harvest employees

It had been something of a company secret that Kauai Coffee Company wasn’t able to complete its 2002 harvest due to a shortage of workers.

Determined not to let that happen again this year, company officials are going all-out to recruit as many as 112 full-time, temporary employees for both field and factory positions for the annual harvest, which begins next month and ends in November.

Company representatives were out in force at a job fair at Kukui Grove Center yesterday, and current year-round and seasonal employees are actively recruiting other folks to work this year’s harvest.

Workers are needed to harvest the coffee and process coffee cherries into beans. Temporary positions offer competitive wages and union representation, according to a company spokesman.

Temporary positions include coffee harvester operator, truck driver, preventive maintenance specialist, wheel loader operator, coffee factory worker, coffee factory operator, quality control analyst, data-entry worker, warehouse and shipping coordinators, journeymen engine mechanics, factory and field maintenance workers, orchard agricultural worker, orchard irrigation coordinator, harvesting shift supervisor, and factory shift supervisor.

Applicants must be 18 or older, and may apply in person at Kauai Coffee’s human resources department in Numila near Kalaheo, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interested people may also call 335-5481 for more information.

As Kaua‘i’s only grape farmer, Darrin De Peralta knows the importance of harvesting. On his 10-acre farm, he grows not only grapes, but lychee, avocado, starfruit and coconut.

In the fall, though, he still finds time to work a second job as harvesting supervisor at Kauai Coffee Company. In fact, he has worked at Kauai Coffee on a seasonal basis for the past eight harvests, and plans to continue doing so as long as he is physically able.

“We have to stay on top of things. If we don’t farm, the land’s going to die,” De Peralta said. “It’s better to see ‘Grown in Hawai‘i’ on food than ‘Product of U.S. Mainland,'” he added.

“Harvesting the coffee when it is ripe, and processing it properly, is very critical to the quality of our coffee and our company’s ongoing success,” said Frank Kiger, Kauai Coffee president and general manager.

“We work hard to grow an abundant crop, and to prepare our factory for the intense job ahead. And we rely on the community’s willingness to work for us during this crucial, six-to-eight-week period,” Kiger said.

“We always want to hire people from within the Kaua‘i workforce first,” said Joan Morita, Kauai Coffee human resources administrator. “But we are open to anyone interested in joining our team.”

For Nolan Holi, a supplemental equipment operator, working with Kauai Coffee provides him benefits he couldn’t get elsewhere.

“It’s convenient, close to my residence, and I’m out in the fields, not somewhere inside,” Holi said. “I can work on one machine for maybe a week, then be working on something else the next week. So there’s variety, too.”

Holi has worked for Kauai Coffee for six years, and trains new workers each harvesting season.

Since beginning her work for Kauai Coffee, Ruby Jane Rivera has become a loyal worker for the company, and loyal consumer of Kauai Coffee products.

When not working as a harvest machine operator, she can still be found at Kauai Coffee’s coffee shop, buying her weekly coffee.

“I love my coffee,” said Rivera, formerly an employee of McBryde Sugar Company. “And I love my job. I’m optimistic that it will be a strong company for years.”

Kauai Coffee Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., is Hawai‘i’s largest coffee grower, producing 60 percent of the state’s coffee.

It is also the world’s largest drip-irrigated coffee estate. For more information, please see the Web site, http://www.kauaicoffee.com.

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