Our recent travels to Kauai, a gift from a family member, landed us on a tour of a taro farm, a crop we have never seen grown in California. The tour was a delight and an education.
Taro is a root used in Asian cuisine and grown in heavily-watered fields. The water requirements are so high that we California girls have never seen such a thing. Getting a tour from this 5th-generation Kauai farmer also made us shake our heads about the unpredictable cycles of weather and pests in farming. It is a fact of life we are quite familiar with on the scale of our own 2,000 square foot garden, the big difference of course is that we do not rely on our garden for income.
As the tour began our guide described the only factor that ever stops the once-weekly tour: flash floods. When a flash flood hits, they drive all of their tractors to high ground and they wait out the flood in their farm house in the valley, ready to shovel the mud off their stoops as they come out.
Their young taro plants that are planted by hand, float down the river to the ocean. The well-rooted older plants survive, though with damaged foliage that affects yield.
Birds and snails make a feast on all of the plants and should any actually live to the ripe age of 16 months, the taro is harvested and sold for fifty cents a pound.
Sixteen months is a very long time for a crop that faces regular flash floods. Actually, sixteen months is a long time for a crop that doesn’t face flash floods. We were floored and did not begrudge the $60 fee for the tour. At least something is making money.
The tour was a great, up-close view of the taro patches and included a bonus visit to an antique rice mill. The tour was one of the highlights of our visit.
Two nights later as the rain hammered the island, my cell phone sent me a flash flood alert. My mom turned to me and said, “They are moving tractors right now.”
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