KEALIA — Several hundred people of all ages gathered at the site of the Kealia Farms farmers market Sunday to caravan up to help the farmers and tenants of the Kealia Valley dig out following last weekend’s record-breaking rains.
“I could think of 300 other places I’d rather be,” said Russell Haluapo of Anahola. “But these people need help, so this is the place to be.”
“I had to swim just to save my dogs,” said Fletcher Parker, a Kealia Farms vendor. “The entire place was flooded.”
Parker was one of the designated group leaders in the cleanup coordinated by Adam Asquith of Kealia Farms.
“The goal of today’s cleanup is to be able to get the farmers up and growing,” Asquith said. “There is a lot of work to be done, but it is Sunday and people need to spend time with family. The main thing is to be able to get the farmers into a position to start planting again.”
Johnny Gordines, president of the Kauai County Farm Bureau, and Brian Miyamoto, executive director of the Hawaii Farm Bureau, were among the volunteers waiting to be dispersed into the farmlands.
“We know agricultural enterprises were hit hard by the rains,” Miyamoto said. “We’re in the process of assessing damage at this point. Farmers, ranchers and others involved in agriculture can report their damage to Gordines, who is collecting the damage reports. I wanted to bring my chainsaw and some other tools (from Oahu), but the Transportation Security Administration said these were not allowable.”
Pat Gegen drove his family in from Kalaheo to help with the cleanup.
“Tommy Noyes and the Friends of Kamalani are down at Lydgate Park trying to deal with all that driftwood,” Gegen said. “But the scope of work is so great they’re just tending to normal chores and leaving the big work for a future effort.”
Others came in from Anahola, where portions of the community lining the Anahola River sustained heavy flood damage.
“Our farm is in Moloaa,” said Ku‘ulei Punua. “We lost a footbridge, but that got rebuilt Saturday. We come to help these farmers, some of whom lost everything.”
Asquith said while he and other farmers feel bad for damage the storm caused many residents, the farmers also need help because they feed all the people.
Gordines agreed, noting the Kauai County Farm Bureau has approached government officials about help that can be given to Kauai’s agricultural community. The need for completing the damage assessment is crucial to that request.
At least there’s a silver lining. “The good thing about all of this, when the mud and everything dries, we’ll have some of the best fertile soil to grow things,” Asquith said.
Dennis Fujimoto can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org