Promoting Better Land Stewardship Practices
By Duane Okamoto, executive director, ORCD
People don’t always pay attention to what’s going on beneath their feet, but Oahu Resource Conservation and Development Council (ORCD) is preoccupied with soil. When managed correctly, soil sustains us. When managed improperly, it can enter our streams and oceans, where it has a devastating impact on water quality. The role that farmers play in caring for the soil is largely unappreciated but tremendously important.
Since 1997, ORCD has been working with farmers to promote land stewardship and help them adopt farming practices that protect Hawaii’s natural resources while ensuring sustainable production of local food.
Several of our flagship projects engage farmers in imperiled watersheds, supporting their efforts to reduce soil erosion and water loss, and helping them comply with environmental regulations. With generous support from the Hawaii Department of Health, ORCD has partnered with farms in the Waimanalo Watershed to develop conservation plans and provide grants to implement better stewardship practices.
We are currently working with six farms to plant cover crops, develop composting systems, remove invasive species, and restore stream banks using native plants.
“Working one-on-one with farmers to identify and implement conservation practices is tremendously rewarding work,” said Amanda Camacho, program assistant. “Farmers work hard to support all of us, and we offer information and tools to make sure they are successful.”
ORCD’s efforts are paying off. In 2013, ORCD staff conducted 150 site visits to local farms, resulting in improved stewardship practices on more than 9,000 acres. More than 450 individuals attended workshops sponsored by ORCD and learned about growing vegetables, beekeeping, landscaping with native plants, organic pest control, farmland preservation and other topics important to Hawaii’s agriculture.
On Saturday, May 3, our annual series of gardening workshops will begin with a workshop on cultivating healthy soils. Other topics in the series will include aquaponics, container gardening, vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Workshops will take place every other Saturday, ending June 14.
Please visit our website at oahurcd.org to learn more about the upcoming gardening workshops, on-farm conservation planning, Sunn Hemp seed sales and for access to free, downloadable publications.
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