A Kona Success Story: McCann Farms

I met Mike McCann for the first time a few years ago. He was in a class I was teaching to help farmers write business plans. Mike wrote a solid plan that allowed him and his wife, Chalida, to purchase a Kamehameha Schools lease on three-quarters of an acre in Honaunau in 2021.

Fast forward a few years and this dynamic duo now runs a profitable farm on this small piece of land. They recently received an additional lease for another hectare of land next to their farm. Hold on…these two will certainly be able to expand their production and offer more locally grown organic practices as well as produce to more markets and restaurants on the Big Island and beyond.

The couple met 23 years ago at a friend's graduation party in Chicago. They spent some of the intervening years working together on farms in many different locations across the country, including a market farm in Illinois and a community garden in Colorado. They developed some good farming skills and were ready to move to a place where they could farm year-round.

After working on a Kona lettuce farm for a few months, they felt ready to try growing it on their own. Mike took on a gardening project in Kealakekua in 2013. He farmed and maintained a quarter-acre property behind Annie's Burgers, where he grew produce to supply the restaurant. The surplus was sold at the Keauhou Farmers Market Saturday morning.

McCann's next project was a one-acre lease on Lalamilo Ag's lands in Waimea. They grew many roots, green plants and herbs. As their skills increased and they desired to be in Kona, they were excited to purchase a leased property in South Kona. The small plot of land they were able to lease had been abandoned for more than ten years.

According to Chalida, “We had weeds and grasses up to our chests. We couldn't see the driveway and the house was a mess.”

They removed about thirty African tulip trees and hired an excavator to remove the invasive roots so they could create a terrace to expand their greenery production.

After extensive clearing work, they transported in about 100 meters of topsoil and compost and created some long-growing beds. They were able to plant and start harvesting within a few months.

They also took on the project to renovate the dilapidated house on the property. This allowed them to live on the farm and work closer to home.

When I asked if they had any DIY experience for such a project, Mike replied, “We just figured it out as we went along.”

Farm life meant they were able to grow and care for over twenty different species of plants on their well laid out farm. They currently harvest and sell an average of 500 pounds of fruits and vegetables per week. They continue to sell a variety of vegetables and salads as well as root vegetables, herbs and papayas at the Keauhou Farmers Market on Saturdays. By further developing their growing areas, they were also able to increase their sales.

Chalida reports that her most popular plants are romaine lettuce and kale. They sell these, along with other vegetables, to Adaptations for distribution to local restaurants as well as to supply their Fresh Feast customers who are members of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group.

The RC Kona butcher shop buys vegetables and herbs for its meat marinades as well as its soups and sandwiches. Mike and Chalida recently added small grocery store Kainaliu Fresh to their client list.

With the additional acres recently added to McCann's lease, they will expand their acreage and hope to add tree crops and perhaps even some coffee plants to their farm. They will definitely expand their customer base to include customers all over the island and eventually Oahu

and other islands.

When I asked what their weekly chores included, Mike said they check all of their beds and water their seedlings daily. They also regularly plant seedlings and carry out propagation. They often check their drip irrigation system and apply fertilizer when necessary. On Fridays they harvest for the market and collect seedlings, which are also ready for sale.

Both Mike and Chalida stressed the importance of checking their beds daily. They designed their farm so that daily tours are easy to do and they can quickly identify and fix problems. Their daily inspection routine allows early detected problems, including pests and diseases, to be addressed before they become a major threat to their production goals.

Although the business plan that Mike created in my class gave them a good start, they found that they needed to make some important changes to adapt to the situations they encountered along the way. However, with a good starting plan, changes were easy to implement and contributed to better progress.

Writing a good business plan highlights the issues that farmers face and makes them realize that farming is a business and that starting with a solid plan paves the way to success. The McCanns are always glad that they thought through the process clearly at the beginning and created a plan that would help them succeed.

Planning ahead seems to be a common theme among the new farmers I met. It allows them to earn a living while enjoying a lifestyle that makes them happy.

You too can make agriculture work for you. Start with a plan and the determination to put in the hard work to successfully bring it into reality. You won't be sorry.

Garden events

Saturdays: Working day at Amy Greenwell Garden, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at the Garden Visitor Center opposite the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook. Come with a mask and be prepared to social distance. Volunteers can help with garden maintenance and are invited to bring a brown bag lunch. Water and snacks are provided. Visit and sign up for the weekly email for more information about workdays.

• Perennial peanut plants are available at the Kona Extension office in Kealakekua. Contact Matt at to reserve your tray. Limited quantities available. First come first serve.

Saturday May 18th: “14. Annual Mango Festival” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hale Halawai in downtown Kailua-Kona. For more information, contact or text Randyl at or call Randyl Rupar at 808-936-5233. Or had to

Tuesday, May 21st: The Hawaii Invasive Species Mini Conference webinar begins at 9:30 a.m. Topic: Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle. For more information, visit the Hawaiian Invasive Species Council website or call Roshan at the UH Extension Service office at 808-322-4892.

Save these appointments

Wednesdays, May 29th to August 3rd (10 weeks): Ag Orchard Cohort, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (online), Saturdays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Oahu Orchards. Costs $200. Learn how to plan, plant, and manage a productive commercial orchard. Contact for more information or to apply.

1st-8th June: The Ka'u Coffee Festival will be a week of events. For more information, visit

Wednesdays, June 12th – July 6th (4 weeks): Agricultural floristry, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (online), Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Various locations around Oahu, cost: $150. Learn how to plan your flower farm. Contact for more information or to apply.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 18-20. July: Hawaii Coffee Association 29th Annual Conference at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu. The conference is currently looking for lecturers and volunteers for the trade fair and the national cupping competition. Further information can be found on the website at

Direct markets for farmers

(Please check websites for latest opening hours and online markets.)

Wednesday and Friday: Ho'oulu Farmers Market 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Sheraton Kona Resort on Keauhou Bay

Saturday: Keauhou Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to noon at the Keauhou Shopping Center; Kamuela Farmer's Market, 7:30 a.m. to noon at Pukalani Stables; Waimea Town Market, 7:30 a.m. to noon at Parker School in downtown Waimea; Waimea Homestead Farmers Market, 7:30 a.m. to noon at the Waimea Middle and Elementary School playground.

Sunday: Pure Kona Green Market, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook; Hamakua Harvest, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Highway 19 and Mamane Street in Honokaa.

Plant advice centers

At any time:

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. to noon at UH-CES in Kainaliu – 322-4893; or within walking distance Mon, Tue & Fri: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the UH CE.

Diana Duff is a plant consultant, educator and consultant living part-time in Kailua-Kona.

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