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Mission and Vision

The mission and goal of the Kona Cacao Association is to promote the cacao industry on the Big Island of Hawaii by presenting the Big Island Chocolate Festival as an educational and outreach opportunity for local cacao farmers, the hospitality industry and cacao enthusiasts.

Our Focus

Beyond creating, implementing and promoting the Big Island Chocolate Festival, the Kona Cacao Association works with cacao growers, producers, chocolate enthusiasts and chefs to help create a recognizable brand for Hawaii Island Chocolate. We work together towards creating a structure to maintain the quality of cacao grown, marketed and shipped from Hawaii for the future growth of this fledging industry.


Our Approach

Our Story

The Beginning

The original Board Members of the Kona Cacao Association were a group of chocolate aficionados who came together to create the Big Island Chocolate Festival and have been in charge of the growth of the yearly affair since 2012.  Although Kona had previously had an annual Chocolate Festival, the KCA volunteers have taken the Festival to the next level and made it a destination event. Our Board has since expanded to include those with chef, restaurant and business specialities to support the growth of the association.

Our Expanded Focus

Since the creation of the Big Island Chocolate Festival, the Kona Cacao Association has been able to expand its focus to include working with local cacao farmers to create cacao as a viable export crop by introducing chefs, chocolatiers and specialty food purveyors to the cacao grown and produced here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Kona Cacao Association is currently expanding its membership and works towards connecting stakeholders in the local cacao industry. Come join us!

Meet Our Current Board

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Farsheed Bonakdar


Owner of Cocoa Outlet. Farsheed is also known in Hawaii as “the Chocolate Guy” for his life size chocolate fountain which graces special events around the island. Farsheed, who has been a professional chocolatier since 1999, has been instrumental in connecting chefs, chocolatiers and cacao growers with the Big Island Chocolate Festival.


Fern Gavelek

Vice President

Owner of Fern Gavelek Communications, she serves as a publicist for various Hawaii agriculture/culinary trade associations and does publicity for several local ag/culinary events. A veteran journalist in Hawaii since 1988, she is a freelance writer and has written extensively about the local culinary and agricultural community for statewide publications.

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Delania Branham


Delania is a Realtor at Island Home Realty, Inc. and a parent at Kona Pacific Public Charter School since 2009. An especially active volunteer, she is interested in supporting local farmers and encouraging the unique process of local cacao production.


Laurie Mattos


Owner of the Hawaii Coffee Connection  is a co-founder of the Kona Cacao Association and utilizes her financial expertise in running her own company combined with her deep roots in the community to assist the Association.


Ken Melrose

A resident of Hawaii since it was a Territory, Ken moved to Kamuela in 1974 for a career in construction and project management and to Kealakekua in 2001. In 2015, Ken planted his first Cacao seedlings, with the first of his nearly 400 trees beginning to produce starting in 2018. He established Primavera Farm in 2015, selling Apple Banana, Ulu and Tangelo and started bean to bar processing of his cacao in 2018.
Ken sees a bright future for Kona Cacao as a high-quality specialty product. He joined Kona Cacao Association to help recruit new farmers, expand product visibility and help standardize product processing for Kona Cacao. At the 2019 Big Island Chocolate Festival his beans won the Best Cacao recognition.

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Rivah Winter

Rivah Winter is an ecologist by training, having received her PhD from the University of Miami in 2017. In addition to her research background, she has extensive experience in public outreach, speaking to over 30,000 people a year when running a public-facing research laboratory at the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami. Now, in addition to farming cacao and coffee in South Kona, she continues to develop content for museum exhibitions across the country. She is excited to bring her passion for public outreach and content development to bear in her capacity as board member for the Kona Cacao Association.


Noya-Yata Muñoz

A parent at Kona Pacific PCS. Noya has worked in the food and beverage industry for 27 years. She has experience in everything from small cafes to fine dining restaurants as well as event catering. Noya and her family moved to South Kona in 2012 to get more involved in local agriculture. Always the chocolate lover, Noya would love to see the Hawai'i cacao industry reach the same international acclaim as kona coffee.


Stephanie Beeby, M.S.

Currently the Director of the Big Island Chocolate Festival and a Business Coach for Start-ups, non-profits and visionaries. Trained in Organizational Psychology, she is the Founder of In Flow CEO Consulting assists business owners to Clarify, Energize and Optimize their business systems. As for events, strategically it is about connecting live events to their intended audience and strengthening their brand message. Supporting business' to grow on purpose, while supporting those around them to rise with them is her key focus.


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Usha Kotner

Founder of and former Director at Kona Pacific Public Charter School. She believes the agricultural program at Kona Pacific is a crucial component of the school’s offerings. The school offers a curriculum in the life-sustaining practices of farming and gardening and embraces community sustainability through care and respect for the people, land and sea of Hawaii. Usha also lives on a farm in South Kona that produces cacao and is committed to supporting community agricultural endeavors.


Nat Bletter

Co-owner of Madre Chocolate on Oahu. They have been producing award winning chocolate using both Hawaiian and South American Cacao beans. Nat brings a lot know how in the bean to bar area and he does educational workshops.

Want to JOIN?

By joining together, KCA members create opportunities that will help everyone involved in the cacao industry on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Join us as we journey towards creating an internationally recognized brand of cacao and chocolate products that are guaranteed sustainable, fair trade and high quality.