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A Farmer's Education: 5 Valuable Lessons Learned From Living on a Coffee Plantation in Hawaii

Did my husband and I lose our minds that day we stepped off the plane in Hawaii? Perhaps. But we are so much more resourceful and open to opportunities than we were a decade ago.
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When you trade in high heels and a briefcase for work boots and a hoe, you know that life is going to be different.

Luana Farm on the Big Island of Hawaii has provided my family an unconventional classroom over the past 7 years. Yes, we have learned a great deal about organic farming practices and living a more sustainable life, but there are other lessons that are no less valuable.

It started when my husband and I took a vacation to Hawaii and within the first 10 minutes we decided to make the leap. And it was a leap. We left good jobs on the mainland, a house at the right address, and kids in a fine private school. But that life came at a cost: We were always working to make the payments and hardly ever spent time together as a family. We knew we wanted something different. We wanted to work for ourselves and live where we worked. Were we brave enough to trust our own judgment and take those first courageous steps from corporate worker to organic farmer? We decided that challenges exist no matter what life you pick so it might as well be a life that we wanted to live.

When we first visited the 10+ acre coffee and avocado farm, our agent noted that there was no house, only a tear-down structure on the property. Yet, when we first saw the coffee shack, we were drawn into the dream of a simple home and a simple life. How hard could it be? I think I realized that life was going to be quite different when I heard my 10-year-old daughter exclaim one morning, "Mom. Why is there a goat in the pantry?" Goats in the kitchen, chickens in the bathroom, the occasional mongoose looking to blend in with the cats as they eat from the food bowl, the transition wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. We had no clue as to what we were doing but somehow we knew we were on an exhilarating journey and we had to see how it turned out. Amazingly, the path led us to lessons that one can only learn when one reaches past their comfort zone.

If I had to pick the top 5 precious lessons learned from our farm - words of wisdom that one could heed no matter where they lived or what they did - it would be these:

1.) Listen to your desires. Ask for feedback from others but go with your gut. Only you know what you truly want.

2.) You are never too old to change gears. Never. The time to bring your life's passions to fruition is now.

3.) Dig in the dirt. Soil grounds you and connects you with the natural world like nothing else.

4.) Discover the joy of real work. You need to sweat and put your body into action.

5.) Open yourself to opportunities and trust what lies ahead. Some choices may take you by surprise. Let them.

In answering my daughter's question as to why there was a goat in the pantry, I replied, "Because we are part of an exercise in letting go of perceptions of what life is suppose to be. We decided to do what we love to do and let go of 'shoulds' and 'have-tos.'" It is an unconventional life by many standards but it is a beautiful expression of living life to the fullest. Did my husband and I lose our minds that day we stepped off the plane in Hawaii? Perhaps. But we are so much more resourceful and open to opportunities than we were a decade ago.

Plus, surprises have come along the way that we might have missed if we weren't receptive to changes in the plan. I now have a flourishing skin care company, Luana Naturals, that grew from my passion of all things natural, the desire to make a more diversified farm, and the fact that I don't drink coffee and needed to find my own "thing." My children have caught the entrepreneurial spirit too as they look to create a life of their own on their own terms. They know that life is not determined by trying to avoid mistakes. Rather, it is about charting a course and making it happen. And most importantly, I even have a door now that keeps the goats, chickens, and mongooses out of the house - most days. Prior, I don't think I would have even considered the benefits of a proper door. Now, those little things are noticed and appreciated here on the mountain, on an island, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For this farmer, the education has been worth every bump in the road and every chicken in the laundry basket.