Small farmers today have to do a lot of things to make a living. Still, you get the feeling that the Lydgate family at Steelgrass Farms on Kauai is overdoing it a little.
The first Lydgates arrived in Hawaii in the 1860s. Will and Emily are fifth-generation Kauaians, the great-grandchildren of John Mortimer Lydgate, in whose honor Lydgate Park on Kauai is named. In the 1990s, the family bought 8 acres of scrub on a hill above the town of Kapaa.
There they started growing cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made. For years, their harvest went to increasing their orchard and then to sharing seeds with other farmers in order to raise enough cacao to justify putting in a processing plant. They are just about there and say they will soon be able to begin making and selling single-origin Kauai chocolate.
But that’s only the start of the story. They also offer tours of their grounds, not only showing off the cacao trees and their fruit (which look like large, glossy highly colored footballs) but also giving tastings of the various tropical exotics they’ve planted on the property – longans, soursops, native passion fruit (or lilikoi), rambutans and even vanilla pods.