story by Ashley Stepanek
photo by Monte Costa
The first words out of Casey Shim’s mouth are, “I work twenty-five hours a day, eight days a week.” But the Kula farmer “complains” with such youthful vigor that it’s fairly clear he doesn’t much mind the preposterously rigorous schedule he’s created for himself. At age seventy-five, this retired elementary school principal has the energy and enthusiasm of the kids he once managed in the classroom.
These days, he’s using that energy to grow organic coffee on the misty slopes of Haleakala: The Shim Coffee, Protea and Botanical Farm currently has 3,000 coffee trees in various stages of maturity, and as the farm’s owner and sole worker, Casey single-handedly plants, nurtures, picks, pulps, cleans, dries and hulls everything. A tour of the immaculate farm reveals a disciplined work ethic but, ever humble, he claims it’s all just been an adventure in learning.
According to Casey, the seeds for the farm were planted many years ago, when he happened to read a magazine article about protea while living in California. Drawn by the flower’s exotic shape, he thought it might bloom well in Upcountry Maui's unique microclimate (an intuition that pre-dated the flower’s current popularity in the region). In fact, he was so excited by the idea that he moved home and started planting. The coffee came a few years later, when his wife and sister-in-law returned one day from Grandma’s Coffee House in Këokea and suggested that Casey start growing the beans, too. So he bought 100 coffee plants, harvested the beans and then sold them back to the café for $1.50 a pound. Six years ago, he found a professional roaster and asked his three granddaughters—then twelve, ten and seven—
to create a label.
“I asked them to include a Maui rainbow, Haleakala Crater, my coffee plants, one of my horses and the grassy meadow of my farm, and they did it!” he says, adding proudly, “This is the greatest joy in the farm’s coffee business.”
Er … “one of my horses,” you say? Yes, it turns out Casey has become a cowboy, too: He now has four horses on the farm, including a miniature he calls Black Bart. If you’d like to meet him—and Casey, too—you can: Tours of the farm are available by appointment.
Shim Coffee, Protea and Botanical Farm