Organic farmers take weather in stride

Her neighbor’s nursery operation was totally washed away by last month’s torrential rains and flooding.

Another lost his organic lettuce crop, and she lost some precious topsoil and has other problems.

But Rosa Russell said there is no place else in the world she would rather be right now.

Russell, who grows organic mango and other “diversified crops” on three acres of land along Waiakalua Road in Kilauea, is Kaua’i director at large of the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association.

“I’m so happy to be here and be a part of this subdivision,” she said of being surrounded by organic farmers, knowing she has clean soil all around her, and no worries of getting “doused” with chemicals.

“We have a gem here, something special.”

There are, of course, problems, both faced by organic and traditional farmers on a daily basis, and those caused by the flooding and torrential rains of last month, Russell said.

Some of her neighbors’ farms are “fields in a stream” because of continued higher-than-normal flows through streams in the area.

“We’re concerned about root rot, rot and mold,” she said.

Most of the farmers on Waiakalua Road aren’t making lots of money, and she remembers vividly hearing the laughter from fellow farmers at an emergency meeting after the March 14 flooding when she was asking public officials about availability of loans for damages.

“We’re all in debt already. My big question is, is there going to be a tax break?” she asked.

“It’s hard for farmers, you know. It’s hard to be a businessman and a farmer,” she said.

“Sometimes the business side is not attractive,” said Russell the farmer and Russell the artist who also has a bit of a dis-taste for the necessary evil that is the business side of art.

Still, they continue getting water from Ka Loko Reservoir, though the pressure is inadequate for ginger farmer Phil Green to wash off his crops at harvest time (now), she said.

And while some farmers know already their level of damage, it is a bit of a wait-and-see situation for Russell’s Akawakanugi Farms mango.

The flowers on the mango trees are moldy, she said.

“I’m guessing that it’s going to be a hard mango year.”

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