The Uchida family farmhouse at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. The overhanging sheet metal roof directed rain into barrels to save for the dry season. Photo by Elaine Johnson

Heading to the Big Island? If you’re interested in food, agriculture, and old Hawaii, be sure to catch the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. It was fun to see the way coffee used to be grown and processed, but the compelling part for me was the stories the docents told of the everyday life of the Uchida family, the Japanese-American farmers who homesteaded there beginning in 1900.

The farm and house are set up to show the life of the Uchidas from 1920 to 1945. Here are some highlights.

In the kitchen, a docent demonstrates making onigiri with salted plums and other fillings to pack up for lunch for the 8 Uchida kids. Photo by Elaine Johnson

Completed onigiri in a lunch box. Note the clever chopstick holder. Photo by Elaine Johnson

The family didn’t have a lot of money, so they made their own toys such as dolls out of flowers with coffee berry “heads,” and coffee berry balancing toys. Photo by Elaine Johnson

Over the course of the growing season, the Uchidas returned 7 times to each tree to pick the ripe red coffee berries. That’s where all those kids came in handy. Photo by Elaine Johnson

Until WWII, the family used donkeys (this is a stand-in, obviously) to carry the full sacks of ripe berries to the processing area. After the war, it was cheaper to use surplus jeeps. Photo by Elaine Johnson

If rain came while the coffee was drying, the Uchidas could slide the shallow roof over the berries. Photo by Elaine Johnson

To diversify their crops and provide food for the family, the Uchidas also grew pineapple and macadamias. Photo by Elaine Johnson

They grew allspice. Photo by Elaine Johnson

And they grew sweet, delicious sugar bananas (here, with a resident gecko). Photo by Elaine Johnson

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