Conservationists lauded

LIHUE — Bradley Smith of Viva Rain Farms said he and Sakda Meephol have been farming together for 15 years. He never thought they would be winning awards together, too.

Smith and Meephol were honored for their outstanding conservation efforts at water conservation Friday by the East and West Kauai Soil and Water Conservation Districts in partnership with the Department of Water.

Smith was named the Outstanding Conservationist of the Year for the East Kauai district for his small family-run farm in Kilauea.

Stemming from Smith’s efforts to improve the overall management of their operations to ensure the efficiency of their irrigation and water use, Viva Rain Farms has grown to have three farms in Moloaa and Kilauea totalling nearly 25 acres.

“It is great we have programs like the NRCS,” Smith said. “It helps us achieve things on the farm we could not do out of pocket.”

Viva Rain Farms works 18 acres in Kilauea, one acre in Moloaa and half an acre in the Kilauea Ag Park. The Kilauea Ag Park and the Moloaa parcels are mixed vegetables; the remaining areas have diversified tropical fruit trees, including rambutan, longan, avocado, mangosteen and other trees.

“Some of the practices Viva Rain Farms have used include keeping the orchard ground covered through the use of mulch and windbreaks,” said Ed Kawamura Jr., representing the East Kauai Soil and Water Conservation District. “Since mulch has been applied around their trees, they have cut their water use by 40 percent, improving the efficiency of their overall water system. They also base their water needs on information from a rain gauge to help ensure they only use water as needed, reducing overall waste.”

Meephol is a diversified row crop and orchard farmer, operating several farms across the island to produce a variety of crops including mango, banana, watermelon, longan, pineapple and several other crops.

He earned the Conservationist of the Year award from the West Kauai Soil and Water Conservation District for his efforts to conserve water, including installation of an improved drip irrigation system.

“A couple of years ago, he noticed his drip irrigation lines in the bananas kept bursting due to pressure and feral pig issues,” said Jenna Dunn, NRCS district conservationist. “Mr. Meephol worked closely with the NRCS and the SWCD office to design and install a more resilient and efficient drip irrigation system.”

Meephol also practices enhanced irrigation scheduling and utilizes forage radish, similar to daikon, as a cover crop to increase soil organic matter, thereby increasing the water hold capacity of the soil. Another benefit of this type of cover crop is that it helps to break up the hard pan, or impermeable layer, within the soil to increase the water infiltration rate and contributing to groundwater recharge.

“He has plans to improve the irrigation systems on his other fields,” Dunn said. “He is committed and dedicated to agriculture and stewardship of the land.”

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