Charlie, the approximately 30-year-old donkey at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, got a late Christmas present. His new bestie, an estimated 6-month-old female donkey, arrived Jan. 31, 2017, at Kona Historical Society’s 5.5-acre historic farm in Captain Cook.
This new donkey is part of Kona Historical Society’s first-ever crowdfunding campaign, “Charlie Needs A Bestie,” which project aimed to get Charlie a friend and an upgraded home. At the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, these donkeys are ideal ambassadors for helping tell the story of Kona Nightingales.
“Donkeys were a crucial part of Kona coffee farm families in the early 20th century. Coffee farming was and is labor-intensive and would have been near-impossible without donkeys,” said Kona Coffee Living History Farm Museum Manager and Kona Historical Society Assistant Program Director Gavin Miculka. “I’m very excited about bringing a second donkey to the farm. Our campaign inspired interest from visitors from all over the world. I know that they will all be pleased to know that Charlie has a bestie!”
Yamagata Farms, a South Kona family farm started in 1898, donated the young donkey to Kona Historical Society on Dec. 27, 2016. Yamagata Farms has been paying for its feed, board and training with Kala’i Nobriga of K.N. Performance Horses at Mahealani Ranch. Nobriga is an established horse trainer in the state of Hawaii. Over the past couple of weeks, he has been teaching the baby donkey to lead, as well as to be comfortable when handled and when surrounded by crowds. He thinks the donkey is adjusting well and describes her as shy, but curious.
The baby donkey was brought this week to the Kona Coffee Living History Farm for some acclimation. Later in February, she will be receiving additional training with Nobriga at Mahealani Ranch. Following this training, she will make a permanent return to the farm. Kona Historical Society plans to eventually use her to demonstrate some of the jobs Kona Nightingales performed on coffee farms, such as hauling coffee and other farm goods. Until the donkey is deemed ready, she will mostly serve as Charlie’s companion and visitors to the farm will be able to observe the budding friendship from afar. Kona Historical Society staff believe the good-natured Charlie will befriend her and can serve as a mentor to the juvenile donkey as she grows into an adult.
This new donkey will soon reach one of her most important milestones yet — getting her name. She will be named on March 1, 2017. From now until Feb. 5, 2017, the public is invited to submit names on Kona Historical Society’s Facebook Page. A Kona Historical Society committee will select the top three to five names, which will be announced on the Society’s Facebook Page, website and at the farm. Fans worldwide will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite name by making a $1 donation at the farm or on Kona Historical Society’s website. All donations will be used for the support and care of animals at the farm. Voting opens Feb. 7, 2017, and closes Feb. 27, 2017.
Kona Historical Society, a community-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the Kona districts and their rich cultural heritage within Hawaii, launched the “Charlie Needs A Bestie” campaign Dec. 9, 2015, on Razoo.com. By January 31, 2016, Kona Historical Society raised roughly $9,658.16 for the project from more than 90 donors.
Over the course of a year, the farm’s pasture was transformed, thanks to community collaboration and partnerships. During the summer of 2016, Steven Equipment cleared the farm’s pasture areas that were once overgrown with invasive plants while Affordable Tree Care trimmed overgrown trees and removed unwanted trees. A group of teens and their leaders from Wilderness Adventures spent a couple of hours removing weeds around the hitching post and in the farm’s front entrance pasture that Charlie likes to spend time in. This fall, Paradise Lawn & Garden Care installed the new fencing and utilized the 70 kiawe posts, which were donated by The Nature Conservancy from its Kiholo Preserve and delivered to Kona Historical Society by volunteers. Kona residents Aaron Mitchell and Kai Auld, updated the plumbing and installed a self-watering trough. A crew of volunteers from Ali’i Woodtailors cleaned up the stall area and built the hitching rails. Hardwoods Hawaii donated wood for rails, which Kona Historical Society volunteers Jack Nessen, Ted Quist and Stephen Ratcliff installed to enclose the pen.
In the future, Kona Historical Society hopes to make improvements to stone walls in the pasture area and expand the stall for feed and equipment storage. The Society will likely start planting grass, particularly suitable for the donkeys’ diets, in the lower pasture later this spring.
“The community was a crucial component in making improvements to our pasture and bringing the second donkey to the farm,” Miculka said. “We’re excited to now have the community play an active role in naming her.”
The award-winning Kona Coffee Living History Farm tells the stories of Kona’s coffee pioneers during 1920-45. It is the only living history coffee museum in the U.S. Located at 82-6199 Mamalahoa Highway in Captain Cook, near mile marker 110, this historic farm is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.
For more information, call Kona Historical Society at 808-323-3222 or visit www.konahistorical.org. To get the latest updates regarding Kona Historical Society programs, historic sites and special events, “LIKE” Kona Historical Society on Facebook.