My vanilla orchids are the free-range kind. A friend who grows them commercially gave me some cuttings a few years ago. I followed her advice and just laid them (one each) in the crotches of ohia trees, and they took off like wildfire. No roots in soil. Just natural compost that collects in the V formed by the branching trunks. I have five growing. Living here getting things to grow is not the problem. Keeping things from growing out of control is a lot of work. We have a saying, "In Hawaii you can plant a broom handle and grow a broom tree."
There are no natural pollenators here, so the tough part is pollenating the flowers by hand. Actually, once you get the hang of it pollenating is not so hard. It's catching the flowers at the right time for pollenation that is challenging. One must remain vigilant. The window for pollenation is only a few hours long.
Mort is correct. The drying and flavor developing process takes several months. Comparible to the time and effort put into brewing lambics, I would say.
Denny - I know of the Hawaiian Vanilla Company, but have not been to their farm. I work with quite a few farmers on the Hamakua Coast. My lab does bacterialogical testing for food safety certification. (total coliform - E. coli). I bring home a lot of free exotic tropical produce. People are experimenting with new crops since sugarcane has gone away.