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This Workstay Story was written by Sperry McQuaid, if you’d like to learn more about the Heavenly Hawaiian Workstay Program, click here!
“Lastly, after I left the farm, Heavenly Hawaiian stayed in touch with me and what I was up to. For example, as part of my Master’s program, I had to fundraise money to fly to Paraguay to work with a social enterprise agricultural school that taught impoverished kids agricultural and entrepreneurial skills. During the fundraiser, I checked my phone one afternoon to see that the farm had donated to my fundraiser!” – Sperry McQuaid, Heavenly Hawaiian Workstay Alumna
From the moment I landed at the Kona airport and was picked up by my fellow work-stayer and roommate, Leah, I knew my experience on the farm would be an adventure. However, what I didn’t realize was how much I would learn on the farm and how sad I would be to leave.
I came to the farm for many reasons, but one important factor was that I had just started my Master’s program in social impact business, and the first couple months of school were online. A friend had referred to Heavenly Hawaiian, and I thought…“it’s now or never”.
As I reflect on my time studying, exploring Hawaii, and working on the farm, I realize that I not only was learning from my masters program, but I also was learning so much from my experience on the farm. For example…
They are common, they are cute, and they are not to be bothered.
On the farm, I learned to slow down and be present. Before coming to the farm- I was always in a hurry. Being in a rush was the pace of life I was used to, especially after living in Silicon Valley during college. The quality of my day often depended on how many items I could check off my to-do list.
Coming to the Big Island and the farm helped me slow down and be present. I learned productivity wasn’t the end all be all- and in place I learned how to be more present in nature, with people, and lastly with myself. This was a combination of the island’s culture, being surrounded by nature, and having amazing people around me.
The work-stayers lived in a house on the bottom of the farm, and my route to work was beautiful- however, there was some elevation gain. I’m not sure if it was the amount of chocolate-covered mac nuts I ate or what, but I was always out of breath when I started my shift. Every time.
I learned that coffee is beautiful and complex, and I realized how many factors were at play to make a good cup of coffee. I loved learning about coffee (especially Kona coffee) and its journey from bean to brew. As a past barista, I thought I had a good coffee education. But BOY, was I wrong! On the farm, I learned so much- from what varietal our coffee was, how the soil quality made an impact, pulping, processing, drying- oh, the list goes on.
I learned I could have fun doing almost anything- especially on the farm. Before the farm, I would have no energy in everyday life after work or school. However, life on the farm was such an adventure. Whether it was holding a hose and listening to music as we pulped the beans, catching sunsets, exploring the island, making dinners, or doing karaoke nights at the house, I was constantly creating memories.
Lastly, at the farm, I learned about the joy of living in the community. I loved growing close to people on the farm and I developed some amazing friendships. The people made every moment on the farm memorable- even the crazy moments.
I loved living with the community especially because it really did feel like a family (or farmly). When I was there, we celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentines Day, and birthdays together.
In addition, living in the community was also remarkable because of the support. For example, one of my favorite memories was how we would take care of each other when we were sick. I was able to take care of others and I was lucky that one of my fellow work-stayers studied culinary arts, making me the best meals for a week. In addition, I learned how a community can continue to support each other and stay connected from afar. For example, I have loved staying in touch with those friends I met on the farm, and recently had two friends from work visit me in San Francisco.
Lastly, after I left the farm, Heavenly Hawaiian stayed in touch with me and what I was up to. For example, as part of my Master’s program, I had to fundraise money to fly to Paraguay to work with a social enterprise agricultural school that taught impoverished kids agricultural and entrepreneurial skills. During the fundraiser, I checked my phone one afternoon to see that the farm had donated to my fundraiser!
Almost two years later, I recently graduated from my program and am living in San Francisco, looking for what’s next. I now have a degree with me, but most importantly I have lessons, experiences, and adventures from the farm that I will carry with me wherever I go.