Crabs in a bucket: You hear this phrase a lot in Hawaii agriculture. It’s a shorthand for the generalized idea that all diversified ag projects (cacao, or almost anything else) are mired in the same zero-sum mentality that seems to naturally emerge from a community that’s been abused by extractive, off-island big agriculture for a couple hundred years.

We at Kokoleka O’Ka Aina are convinced that cacao has a compelling role in re-envisioning agriculture’s role in a revitalized local Hawaii food system. High value-added products like cacao and chocolate (provided the value-add happens locally!) can serve as an important leading wedge to help consumers and producers realize that local agriculture can indeed do well by doing good.

Additionally, cacao remains stubbornly resistant to monocropping, and thrives in biodiverse plantings, which always encourages us to keep stretching our imaginations for new co-crops. (Our first planting uses an agriforestry approach, but many many alternatives are equally attractive.) After a century or more of exhausting extractive work, much of the land around us is in dire need of diverse plantings and organic practices.

The transition back to a local and viable Hawaiian food system will take decades to achieve, but as far as we’re concerned that future will have a healthy helping of cacao and chocolate–crabs in a bucket notwithstanding.