2020 Board of Directors


Maria Carl; President

Maria Carl (Rogers) is a 3-year HCCA Board Member, currently serving as our President. She and her husband, Michael Rogers, are co-owners of 21 Degrees Estate Cacao Farm in Kahalu’u, on O’ahu’s windward coast. Maria is a retired Air Force Officer. Before entering the cacao and chocolate business, she spent most of her career as a corporate Communications and Marketing Executive. 21 Degrees Estate is a 10-acre mid-sized cacao farm established in 2014 and includes approximately 800 cacao trees at varying levels of maturity and harvest production, as well as multiple tropical fruits, flowers, nuts and other plants. The farm also houses organic laying hens and over 12 honeybee hives for honey production. The farm conducts regular educational agri-tours alongside hosting wellness and cacao oriented events.  Follow the farm & all their upcoming events on Facebook @ 21 Degrees Estate Cacao Farm or visit their website @ www.21degreesestate.com  


Dan Corson; VP

Dan Corson is a 2-year HCCA Board Member, currently serving as our Vice President. Dan wears a lot of hats at his Hāmākua Chocolate Farm; prior to moving to Hawaii Island, Dan was a nationally recognized public artist, creating award-winning sculptures and installations around the world. The focus of the Hāmākua Chocolate Farm, besides growing excellent cacao and making small-batch, artfully designed chocolate, is directed towards cacao education, chocolate experiences and Ag tourism. Located just North of Hilo and beautifully situated on a stream; Hāmākua Chocolate Farm is 6.5 acres, including 550 trees in production (and more to come). Also planted on the farm, are rare and unusual tropical plants. Hāmākua in the Hawaiian Language translates to the “breath of the gods/ancestors” (referring to the mild trade winds that bring our nightly rains) which we particularly liked as the latin for Theobroma cacao is literally “the food of the gods”. 



Gunars Valkirs; Treasurer

Chief dreamer and visionary, Dr. Gunars Valkirs heads up Maui Ku'ia Estate, Inc. A full-time West Maui resident and biotech entrepreneur, Gunars started the cacao farm with the goal of making great chocolate. As the operation grew, he knew he wanted to tie it into the philanthropy that is so central to life for him and his wife JoRene. Plans for the farm, the factory and the company evolved - and Maui Ku'ia Estate Chocolate, Inc.'s Chocolate Kuleana took shape right along with it, creating a remarkable and admirable business model. As CEO, Gunars is responsible for the overall leadership, strategic vision and financial vitality of MKEC's factory and farm. 


2020 Executive Director


Amy Hammond

Amy is President of Special Events Hawaii, a leading marketing, advertising and event planning firm handling events such as the Made in Hawaii Festival, Hawaii Book and Music Festival and the Kailua Town Party. In 2008 she was asked to join the Governor's Task Force on the Hawaii Cacao Industry where she recommended establishing a festival and in 2011 she founded the Hawaii Chocolate Festival. Amy was the catalyst for the formation of the Hawaii Chocolate and Cacao Association by hosting industry leaders at the state legislature providing a forum for stakeholders to discuss the formation of an organization. She is also responsible for the designation of February as Hawaii-Grown Cacao Month, the production of a Hawaiian Airlines in-flight video promoting Cacao that reaches millions, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser front page coverage entitled "Cacao" and is a strong industry advocate. Continuing her childhood passion as chocolatier, she creates chocolate just for fun under the label Aloha Chocolate Company by Kealoha. She is a volunteer for HCCA overseeing many aspects of the organization, and we are proud to have her as, not only a founding member of HCCA, but our Executive Director.


2020 HCCA Advisors


Victor Renaghan


Victor Renaghan is a U.S. Army Veteran & is also one of the Founding Members of the Hawaii Cacao & Chocolate Association. He served on the Board for many years and is the former Vice-President. Victor's interests are in making Cacao – from plant to end product – a viable and safe industry for the State of Hawai'i. He has entered the chocolate end-product manufacturing & private labeling business with spouse Virginia A. Douglas as “Kokolani Chocolates” of Kailua, HI.

Mr. Renaghan is an experienced Federal Government representative serving the Customs and Border Protection as Director, Management Analysis,  Port Director, Senior Representative (Treasury) Hong Kong,– covering Federal international investigations and commodity/revenue market studies and did homeland security and anti-terror analytical work for USCBP, San Francisco.  He has served as an Advisor to the World Bank, U.S.A.I.D., U.S. Interior Department (Territorial Affairs) and Treasury advisor in the fields of intelligence, anti-crime, anti-corruption, and revenue improvement for the governments of Indonesia, Vietnam, American Samoa, and for U.S. Embassies in many countries, as well as being an anti-smuggling and management information systems instructor for Israeli, Philippine and Thailand customs services. He is a graduate of Northeastern University, has completed graduate work at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University, and over 40 continuing education courses in areas such as metropolitan revenues, financing and operations, lobbying and time management


Dr. Skip Bittenbender


2020 Board Members

Dylan Butterbaugh


Dylan Butterbaugh is a 4-year Board Member. Dylan is also the Owner/Operator of Mānoa Chocolate with his wife, Tamara Armstrong Butterbaugh. Manoa Chocolate Hawaii is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory located in Kailua on the island of O'ahu. In Hawaiian language, mānoa is a descriptor meaning, "thick, solid, vast; depth" and refers to the depth of flavor and complexity found in dark chocolate. Founder and Chocolate Maker, Dylan Butterbaugh was born and raised on O'ahu and started the factory in his home town. While still in college, Dylan was exposed to small-batch chocolate making at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture where his friend was researching the potential for theobroma cacao cultivation in Hawaii. By lending a hand in the lab and witnessing the process of setting up micro-ferments, roasting beans and tempering bars, he became fascinated with the art and craft of transforming cacao beans into dark chocolate. Upon graduation in 2010, he launched his own company with a focus on developing a Hawaiian cacao industry.  In addition to sourcing beans from emerging growers throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Manoa Chocolate Hawaii is passionate about producing ethically sourced single origin chocolate from around the world.   

Susan Bassett


Susan Bassett is a new board member and owns Mauna Kea Cacao with her husband, John Bassett. As Susan planned an early exit from her chemical engineering and environmental consulting career, she and John bought a 20-acre farm near Pepe’ekeo on Hawai’i Islands’ Hamakua Coast and began planting cacao during vacations. The cacao orchard was 1,000 trees strong and the oldest trees were producing when Susan moved to the farm. Now  with 1,500 trees and four years of experience fermenting and drying cacao, Mauna Kea Cacao is known for its quality cacao, which is sold to premium  bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Hawaii and on the U.S. mainland. Mauna Kea Cacao also provides weekly farm tours and chocolate tastings. Susan actively promotes the cacao industry and mentors new farmers on Hawai'i Island. 


Colin Hart


 Colin Hart was born and raised on the Big Island, and helped his family plant their first cacao orchard in 2006 on the Hamakua Coast. He received a Bachelors degree in tropical agriculture at UH Hilo in 2016, and is currently completing his Masters degree through UH Manoa, where he conducted research on post- harvest processing of cacao.   

Ben Field


Benjamin Field is a nurseryman from Kahalu'u, O'ahu. Green Field Nursery is a family owned and operated wholesale plant nursery specializing in contract   growing. Ben's involvement with cacao started in 2008 by planting a few seedlings in his yard. This has since turned into Mapele Fields LLC, a cacao farming side-business. At present, this company provides post-harvest services to over 2,000 trees and is actively installing orchards on the windward side.  

Will Lydgate


Born in California to a family with agriculture on both sides: The Lydgates going back to Laupahoehoe sugar plantation on Hawaii island in the 1870’s, and the Hibbs family who raised corn and soybeans since the early 1900’s in Iowa. Will grew up with a latent fascination for plants and agriculture and a thirst to discover his family’s Hawaiian history. Also an accomplished musician Will has a B.M. from Berklee College of Music in Boston and an M.M from their Valencia, Spain campus. Will runs his family Cacao operation -- pioneers of ag-tourism in Hawaii, and is helping to show growers the important keys to profitability contained in value-added sales. Will understands the challenges value-added and ag-tourism operations face and can explain how to address them. Will is also an accomplished public speaker and his Ted talk ‘Changing the Way We Think About Chocolate’ sheds light on the specialty chocolate movement, which is based on fine flavor in chocolate growing and post-harvest processing.

“Let’s harness the power of value-added sales to our thriving Hawaii visitor industry and make agriculture a lucrative sector again in Hawaii.”

- Will Lydgate, Owner & Manager, Lydgate Farms, LLC.


2020 Board Members

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