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THE FARM

We are Howard and Sally Ogilvie.

We are HouLau Farm Chocolate Company.

We were high school sweethearts.  In 1967, while still in high school, Sally (& her parents) visited Kauai, and loved it.

We married in college and moved away from our home in Utah for further schooling and military service, returning to Utah in 1983 with our 4 children.  While raising our family; Sally as a teacher and Howard as a physician, we made sure to visit the Garden Isle as often as possible.  If you've been to Kauai, you'll know why. 

Flash forward to 2008: we're both still working and won't retire for another 5 years, but we had opportunity to buy 3 acres of the most beautiful farmland imaginable.  Done deal!   ...but, not so fast...

The land was (and still is) breathtakingly beautiful, but it had no electric supply, no "facilities" and the only water was a three inch PVC line running across the "makai" end (in the direction of the ocean), over 600 feet from the "mauka" end (in the direction of the mountains).  In addition, to live on the property, we needed an officially sanctioned "home site"..with none to be had, either then or now.

Undaunted, we "bought the farm" and, at Sally's inspiration, began laying the groundwork for growing "chocolate trees"..cacao.  We spent our summer "vacations" for the next several years living in tents on the property; where the only shade was inside the rental car; digging trenches for, and installing, a water meter, irrigation trunk lines, and planting row after row of shade and wind-protection trees (and several tropical fruit trees). All this done in anticipation of our retiring in 2012 and moving to the island to begin planting cacao trees.  Not just any trees would do, since one of our primary goals was (and is) to produce the "world's best chocolate".  So-so beans would not do.

We'd had years to plan the move and had a source of cacao seeds ("beans") identified, but the "source" turned out to be a mirage, evaporating before our eyes as we neared time to plant.  As disappointing as it was, this turned out to be fortuitous as we then turned to the University of Hawaii for assistance and arranged for seedlings that had been selected for their flavor and hardiness in the Hawaiian environment to be flown to Kauai from Oahu.

In early 2013 we cleared the guinea grass and by June had planted the first 124 seedlings.  Each row of trees centered on a row of weed cloth  Each seedling had it's own "drip" irrigation line and shade-cloth-covered wire "basket" we'd made to protect it from overgrowth, wind, sun and the ravages of the rose beetles endemic to the area.

Thus "protected", the seedlings grew tall and spindly, and failed to develop the desirable jorquette (fork) within a few feet of the ground.  Ants, soon took residence in the protective environment of the baskets and brought aphids and mealy bugs with them..that could destroy the growth tips of the seedlings..a mortal threat.

 

We responded by showing up at dusk and into the early night 2-3 times a week with headlamps and a modified mosquito net with "arms" to capture up to 1,000 beetles per evening.  This helped, but didn't solve the ant problem.

 

Ultimately we decided to remove the baskets..some of which, by that time, were stacked two high (@ 6 feet).  The immediate result was that the trees, at their most vulnerable state, and just two days after having the baskets removed, were hit by a wind storm and "defoliated".  Our dear friend and neighboring farmer, "Moloaa John" gave us hope, saying, "They want to live."..and survive they did, without a single lost tree.  Without the baskets, the ants-aphids-mealy bugs ceased to be a problem!

As a reaction to the wind damage, we interplanted shade/wind protection trees into the field..sweet tamarind and ice cream bean.  This would prove to be another mistake..just one of many as we pursued the dream of making chocolate in Kauai.

The ice cream bean trees rapidly grew so tall and wide they blocked too much sun and, depleted the trade winds so much that, during a particularly wet period, while the trees were trying to set pods, they fell prey to "black pod", a fungus-like infestation that destroyed an entire winter's crop, killed several trees and left many others weakened.  We responded to that by pruning back all the diseased branches & pods, removing much of the leaf litter and, ultimately, cutting down all the ice cream bean trees.  Recovery has been slow and the black pod remains a threat, but the trees are much healthier now.

We arranged to receive green waste from a condo complex on the island as mulch, and, over the years, unloaded hundreds of truck loads of green waste into the field and other areas on the farm.  This was a very effective weed suppressant, but also very labor intensive.  Fortunately, around this time we encountered perennial peanut, a cousin of the better-known edible peanut plant.  It was being used elsewhere in Hawaii as a (beautiful) nitrogen-fixing ground cover.

 

We decided to give perennial peanut a try.  Each tree received a "starter" peanut plant.  It has turned out to be a valuable, and astonishingly beautiful addition, becoming a beautiful, thick, green carpet with bright yellow blossoms under the cacao trees.  Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, as the perennial peanut filled in, the rose beetles and the damage they cause nearly disappeared.  This "three-fer" (weed suppression, soil enhancement, and insect control) has been so successful that, as we've expanded our original orchard to additional "sections", we've co-planted perennial peanut with our newer seedlings.

We celebrated each milestone: the first bud, the first blossom; the first, minute, pod; the first full size pod, and, finally, the first harvest of ripe pods.

We've also continued planting..using seed from our existing trees, and have completed planting four of five planned new "sections" of 27 trees each.  But this is only part of the story.  We still have chocolate to make! 

 

Check out The Chocolate Factory.

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our first two pods!