An Island Eden

Melanie and Colehour Bondera – “Kanalani Farm”, Hawaii

Summary: They started out as a farm boy and a beach girl, but together Colehour and Melanie Bondera have combined their passion for the outdoors into a successful organic coffee farm in one of the most prestigious coffee-growing regions in the world. After Colehour suffered a devastating accident, this “agro-jungle” was a part of his journey to recovery. Kanalani Ohana, located 1600 feet above the beautiful Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii is thriving with avocado, papaya, guava, coconut, and of course coffee. In fact, 80 percent of their land is agricultural, but this farm is such a beautiful tropical paradise that visitors are prone to ask “Where are the crops?”.
Garden Contact Information: Kanalani Ohana
P.O. Box 861
Honaunau, Hawaii
U.S.A. 96726

(808) 328-0296

Email: colemel@efn.org

The Garden: Kanalani Ohana is located in Honaunau on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, just below one of the world’s largest volcanoes and 500 meters above Kealakekua Bay.

The five acres of agro-jungle has been home to the Bondera family since 2001. The steep hillsides and ravines are covered with eighty-year-old coffee trees as well as grandfather avocado trees, papaya, guava, coconut, orange, apple, fig, and flowering trees. In addition, the Bondera family have planted a double spiral perennial vegetable garden, a labyrinth shaped garden, a mango terrace and a Senekedugu garden with annuals in it.

The name Kanalani Ohana comes from the Hawaiian words for abundance and family. The farm prides itself on an entirely organic approach, completely free of pesticides or other chemicals. The main crop is the organic Kona coffee. All the beans are hand picked and sun dried. The many other vegetables and herbs grown enable the family to live sustainably off the land. The Bonderas are assisted by apprentices who live onsite in the gazebo and cabins. More information about the farm can be found on their website at http://www.kanalanifarm.org .

The Gardeners' Story: Melanie and Colehour Bondera BIOGRAPHY Melanie and Colehour Bondera met in the early 1990’s when they were both students in the international sustainable agricultural development program at University of California. Colehour Bondera had been raised on an Oregon cattle and wheat farm with ten siblings, while Melanie grew up in Newport Beach, California. She later joined the Peace Corps and went to Africa where she worked as an agriculture extension agent.

They were married in Sequioa National Park in California. Following the birth of their son, Spruce, they moved to Africa where Melanie was working developing small scale agricultural projects. When Melanie became pregnant with their second child they returned to the states, moving to Pennsylvania where Colehour was employed by the Rodale Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging sustainable agriculture.

Melanie awoke one night with a vision of Spruce. It turned out that this was the exact moment when Colehour and their baby-son were hit in a head-on car collision at 50 miles per hour. Although the son was spared any significant injury, Colehour suffered a severe brain injury and was in a coma for five days. He was in the hospital for a month and when he could travel, the Bonderas relocated back to Oregon to Colehour’s family. As Colehour progressed in his recovery, they came to Hawaii for a holiday to visit a friend of Melanie’s, who lived and farmed on the big island. The pair had always dreamed of owning a farm and it was suggested that they buy one there. As they drove around the island they began to get a sense that this was home. The money from the insurance settlement covered the purchase of their new land.

The result was KANALANI OHANA, a certified organic coffee farm, which came into being in 2003. But first, they had to not only had to rebuild the farm but also learn the business aspects of marketing a coffee business. An additional challenge was the fact that they wanted to make their life completely self-sustainable. Their farm uses solar power and has as little electrical appliances as possible. Today Kanalani Ohana has grown to include the help of apprentices. All the beans are handpicked and sun dried. It is one of the few farms to offer 100% Kona Coffee. As opposed to most “Kona” coffee which is 90% lower-qualtity central american beans.

The Bonderas contribute much to the community around them, helping to create a weekly market for local farmers and consumers. They are active members of The Hawaii Genetic Engineering Action Network. Hawaii has more genetically engineered plants per acre than any other in America a fact which threatens the existence of farms such as Kanalani. Melanie, especially, devotes much time to the cause, working with the coalition to demand a cease on genetically engineered crops.

Link: www.kanalanifarm.org
Behind the Scenes: Executive Producer: Merit Jensen Carr
Producer: Merit Jensen Carr
Creative Producer: Donna Gall
Line Producer: Sandra Moore
Director: Gwynne Basen
Writer: Gwynne Basen
Researcher: Gwynne Basen
Narration Writer: Brad Caslor
Editor: Brad Caslor
Director of Photography: James Aquila, CSC
Narrator: Bonnie Dickie
Music: Michael Plowman

Date: 2006

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