Lydgate Farms is run by our fifth generation Kaua’i family. We grow high-quality cacao to make the finest craft chocolate. We also grow award-winning vanilla and honey. Our 46-acre farm sits above the town of Kapa’a, between Sleeping Giant and Mt. Wai’ale’ale. Lydgate Farms is in an ahupua’a (land division) named Olohena, known for its rolling hills and the numerous springs and rivers that make this valley fertile for growing. Often called the Garden Island, Kaua’i is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and, as a result, has the most developed soils and fertile growing conditions. In addition to our specialty crops, you’ll find a wide variety of botanicals around our farm that influence the taste of our honey and chocolate. Visit us in Wailua for an interactive farm tour and chocolate tasting.
How the Lydgate Family Came to Kauai
Will Lydgate, owner of Lydgate Farms, is the great-great-grandchild of William Ludgate who arrived in Hawaii as a young man, landing in 1865 in Honolulu harbor on the steam ship Egeria. The spelling of the name was eventually changed to Lidgate, and then Lydgate to honor an older literary ancestor (spelling was much more fluid in those days). William was an engineer and millwright who founded the Hilo Iron Works and later joined with Theophilus H. Davies in the creation of Laupahoehoe sugar plantation and other sugar ventures on the Hamakua coast. William’s oldest son John Mortimer (known as J.M.) was raised in Hilo and Pauuilo and moved to Kauai in the 1890’s where he became an important community figure. J.M. was congregational minister who preached in english at the Lihue United church and in Hawaiian at the Koloa Union church. J.M. was also a surveyor for the kingdom, and later territory of Hawaii. He also used his sugar background to great effect as managing director of McBryde sugar plantation on Kauai in the early 1900’s. He was instrumental in the creation of the Wainiha hydroelectric plant and surveyed the ‘powerline trail’. He was also a botanist and is survived by many endemic Hawaiian plants that bear the scientific name lydgatei. J.M. is most widely remembered today for Lydgate Beach park which was named in his honor after he passed for his work to preserve the heiau (traditional hawaiian places of worship) throughout Wailua. Lydgate is one of the most widely used family parks in the State of Hawaii, a fact which would surely make J.M. happy.
These expeditions resulted in the publication in 1887 of Hillebrand’s “The Flora of the Hawaiian Islands,” the first and still a standard reference work on Hawaiian plants. The book begins with a dedicatory note to JM, and to this day, there are over a dozen native Hawaiian plants, many of them rare and endangered, whose botanical names include the term lydgatei, in recognition of the boy who was the first to bring them to the attention of the scientific community. Hillebrand was among the first to bring Theobroma cacao the chocolate tree to the Hawaiian islands, establishing a planting in his collections where later J.M. was his head apprentice.
Creating Lydgate Farms
Lydgate Farms’ predecessor, Steelgrass Farm was created by Lydgate descendants on Kaua’i in 2008. The farm began to produce chocolate, vanilla, and honey and conduct some of the first farm tours in Hawaii. The farm is currently managed by William ‘Will’ Hibbs Lydgate, the fifth-generation of the family in Hawaii. He was raised with many legendary tales of family exploits among the Hawaiians which captured his boyhood imagination.To honor his family heritage and their connection to the islands, Will made the decision to rename the farm from Steelgrass to Lydgate Farms.
Diversified Agriculture at Lydgate Farms
For 150 years, sugarcane and pineapple were the primary commodity crops in Hawaii. In 2017, these industries came to an end. While there were tremendous yields in these crops, they took a toll on the soils. Here at Lydgate Farms, we believe that an important key to the future of agriculture in Hawaii lies in creating high-quality products from specialty crops, such as cacao, cultivated in sustainable ways that work with the land. We use natural farming techniques and organic fertilizer to build the soil health and nurture the land. In Hawaiian, the phrase Malama ‘Aina means to care for the land so it can sustain life for future generations. We are proud to continue our family’s legacy and support sustainability efforts through the experience of thoughtfully crafted chocolate, small-scale farming, and educational farm tours.