Farm Feature: Kokoleka Lani Farms
Kokoleka Lani Farms, at 1200 foot elevation in the Keauhou mauka area of Kona, is a 12-year-old cacao and coffee farm owned by Greg Colden.
The 5-acre farm sits on what is known in the area as Tanaka Hill, the highest elevation of what not long ago was the Tanaka Blue Rock Quarry. Greg currently has about three-and-a-half acres under cultivation.
The cacao and coffee trees are planted as an understory closer than usually recommended, with a canopy of Gliricidia (Mother of Cocoa), a tree in the legume family which provides nitrogen, shade, and attracts bees to its small flowers when in bloom. Other trees and plants spread among the cacao and coffee are papaya, bananas, mango, avocado, several types of citrus and pineapples, as well as tropical flowers.
Since the site was originally a quarry, there was only a very thin layer of soil. Consequently, Greg, lets the leaves from all of the trees remain where they fall to form a carpet, which helps control weeds; in turn the carpet of leaves is scratched, picked and shredded by an army of roosters, chickens and baby chicks that freely roam the area, fertilizing as they go and helping build up the soil.
Other composting matter used on the farm are the empty shells of the cacao pods and trimmings from trees. There is a section where several landscapers drop off their clippings and fronds; after a bit of decomposing, Greg uses his tractor to break down the trimmings, so they can then be used as mulch.
The farm is not certified organic, but tries to follow organic practices most of the time. Botanigard, a biological insecticide, helps control the coffee borer beetle, whitefly, aphids, and other damaging insects. On occasion, 16-16-16 fertilizer, which is not organic, is used around the ornamental plants.
“We employ biodiversity rather than monocropping our orchards. Better yields and no weeds,” says Greg, “Our farm is part of our backstory to AgTourism and to creating a value-added product.”
The farm sells the cacao to other chocolate producing companies, such as Madre Chocolate and The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Company. But it sells their Premium Estate 100% Kona Coffee, and its 100% Hawaiian Roasted Cocoa Beans under their own Kokoleka Lani label in the farm gift shop and at the Ali’i Gardens Marketplace.
Greg, along with partner Marty Corrigan, also owns the Kona Natural Soap Company. The soap factory is located within the farm property. The artisanal soaps are made from all natural ingredients such as kukui nut oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, finely ground coffee beans and cacao winnowings, and dried, ground papaya and citrus seeds.. No petroleum oil base or artificial additives are used.
The farm is 100% solar powered and holds a Green Business Certified label.
The farm and company do not advertise except through social media, word of mouth, and as part of organized agro-tours through destination companies such as Home Tours Hawaii.
Kokoleka Lani Farm
Sonia R. Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka'a. She is a regular contributor to Ke Ola Magazine; and has her own food & garden blog at www.soniatasteshawaii.com.