Garden Island Chocolate is a beneficial addition to Kauai agricultural products. We offer a healthy, tasty, and a progressive product that sustains both the body and spirit. Implementing local produce growers who abstain from the use of genetically modified organisms, Garden Island Chocolate assists in the perpetuation of sustainable and organic agriculture on the islands.
Kauai in it’s splendid isolation and abundant natural resources has the potential to be completely independent of the mainland in terms of energy and food.
Sustainability is the capacity to maintain a viable cacao crop and supply chocolate to the population of Kauai indefinitely. The concept of sustainability is applied more specifically to all the living organisms on the entire island of Kauai. In terms of the human community, sustainability has been expressed as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable agriculture refers to the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing severe or irreversible damage to ecosystem health. Two key issues are biophysical (the long-term effects of various practices on soil properties and processes essential for crop productivity) and socio-economic (the long-term ability of farmers to obtain inputs and manage resources such as labor). Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals: environmental stewardship, farm profitability, and prosperous farming communities.
Cacao trees are an exemplary crop that is ideal in creating sustainable and profitable agriculture.
When planting cacao trees on Kauai we are looking at and studying its natural environment in the fragile rain forests of Central and South America, where in many places the rain forest and cacao groves blend together, providing the cacao tree with resources it needs to survive, such as assemblages of pollinating insects and an abundant flow of fallen leaves and other debris to enrich the soil as mulch. This provides a dual economic incentive of conserving agroforestry and creating a balanced sustainable agricultural ecosystem. We strive to unite the economic incentives with biological conservation. We are not just planting cacao but are creating an entire sustainable ecosystem with great biodiversity. Biodiversity in its simplest definition is the variety and amount of plant and animals in a region. The term can also be defined more broadly as the totality of genes, species and ecosystems in a region. Many of the cacao growing regions are located in biodiversity hotspots, regions with high levels of biodiversity, which are also extremely threatened with destruction.
In order to thrive over the course of generations, cacao trees require shade within the sub-canopy layers of the forest. This means they grow best when interspersed among other, larger vegetation. This diversity fosters a naturally complex ecosystem, home to a wide variety of plants, insects and animals. Our cacao, and our canopy species, are comprised of different varieties within the species themselves, making our inter and intraspecies biodiversity very high. This protects us from plagues, infirmities and fungal pathogens that might affect our cacao by establishing a diverse habitat for predator/prey guilds as well as increasing the likelihood of resistance to a species specific pathogen. Such complex environments are inherently hardy; more resistant to disease, and more able to withstand harsh climate fluctuations than homogeneous ecosystems. This strategy also increases our economic resilience. We see this kind of strategy as being critical to ensure food security on Kauai. Kauai is an island in the middle of the world’s largest ocean, our food security needs to be absolute. As part of the complex sustainable agricultural crop equation our farm also provides valuable ecological services, including watershed retention, soil conservation, carbon sequestration, and habitat creation. All of these services have larger values than to the farmer and agribusiness alone, they help create a balanced and stable community.
A happy and content community grows out of agroforestry systems using sustainable permacultural principles.
On Kauai we are striving to create a heterogeneous cacao ecosystem where a spatial arrangement of clumped trees promotes evolutionary diversification among the different varieties of cacao. Almost all chocolate is a blend of different varieties such as criollo, trinatario and forestero. Because of the relatively small population sizes of these pockets of cacao trees, over time they would be subject to considerable genetic drift, resulting in the fixation, or accumulation of specific sets of genes in distinctive phenotypic variants, or varieties. Bananas are a crucial crop that is closely tied with cacao trees. They share the sub-canopy and provide a breeding ground for the midges that pollinate the cacao flowers. In large monoculture cacao plantations relatively few flowers are visited and pollinated compared with the total number of flowers available at any one time. This is due to the highly uneven disjunct spatial distribution of midge breeding. The ancient Mesoamerican cultures (Toltecs, Olmecs, Mayans) had a very sophisticated system of sustainable permaculture in regards to farming cacao. We are following their example of relatively small cacao orchards enclosed by forest or set within small, diversified plots of various crops within the forest to optimize the chances for high productivity and sustainability.
In other words, when raised using traditional farming methods that work in harmony with nature, chocolate is a model sustainable higher yielding crop. The trouble begins when industrial plantation-style operations strip the natural landscape to plant row upon row of isolated cacao trees. Although these methods yield huge crops—and cheaply—in the short term, over time they devastate the rainforest habitat, exhaust the soil and leave the cacao trees dangerously vulnerable to disease. To say nothing of the human impact on local economies and the destruction of traditional farming communities.
Another major advantage of cacao in creating sustainable agricultural on Kauai is its non perishable nature. Once fermented and dried the cacao beans can be stored indefinitely. Once the cacao beans are made into chocolate bars, they too can also be stored indefinitely as long as they are in a cool, dry environment. This greatly increases its economic viability in reducing the risk involved in getting the product to market in a limited time and increasing its shelf life. Its non-perishable nature also reduces the need for refrigeration decreasing our electric costs and dependency on electricity. Thus we can effectively produce chocolate bars and store them until orders are placed reducing our production costs and minimizing the risk of food spoilage.
The economic impact to the community of Kauai by creating a sustainable and profitable agricultural crop of cacao and chocolate will be significant. Currently there are very few sustainable agricultural food crops grown, processed and sold on Kauai. The economic success of Garden Island Chocolate will be an inspiration and model for the entire community, promoting other sustainable agricultural crops.
The average American eats about 12 lbs. of chocolate a year. Kauai residents consume about 780,000 lbs of chocolate a year which is all imported, a majority of which is produced under unethical conditions by child labor in Africa. There is a growing demand for quality island chocolate. And a growing awareness of the unethical conditions under which most of the worlds chocolate is grown.
There is a huge market for chocolate, it is an economically viable and sustainable product. Each year, the chocolate industry produces $45 billion worldwide, according to the state House of Representatives. The average American eats about 12 lbs of chocolate a year. Organic dark chocolate is becoming more and more popular. Ad Age reports that sales of dark chocolate are up 40% this year, an increase leading to $1.62 billion in sales, after only a 29% increase from 2003-2005. One of the reasons for the increase is the fact that this past year has seen many reports that dark chocolate is good for your health. Organic fruit and vegetables are more nutritious (40% more antioxidants) than ordinary produce and may help to lengthen people’s lives by increasing their nutrient intake.