Where You Live: Sumida Farm

Published On: Dec 24 2013 10:54:55 AM HST   Updated On: Nov 12 2013 09:57:11 AM HST

If you've ever eaten watercress in Hawaii, there's a good chance it came from Sumida Farm in Aiea. You may have noticed the farm if you've ever driven past the Pearlridge Shopping Center. Some people say the best-tasting watercress in the world is grown there, perhaps because of its most unusual location.

Click here to watch Brenton Awa's report.

"We're harvesting in this area, we just harvested this one," explains David Sumida during a walk through of the farm.

David and his sister Barbara are the third generation of Sumidas to manage this land. Their grandparents took over the 10 acres back in 1928 when much of it was used to grow taro.

"The farm is 85-years-old now," said David.

The farm took root under their father, who planted only watercress. It was a decision that's made this farm flourish today, but the payoff didn't come without a price. As time passed, in came development, and being pushed out was what the Sumidas were up against.

"The developer wanted to take away the lease for this plot here to develop, it was going to become the phase three of the Pearlridge center," said David. "My dad was fighting for this farm because it was his farm, it was the family farm, they wanted to keep it."

All of the water used on the land is natural, coming from springs.

"The water has lots of mana; when I realized that, everything came together," said David.

David says it takes 22 years for the water to flow from the mountains to the farm. After being filtered in the Koolau mountains, what some call the source of life bubbles its way back to the surface, where it's met with unblocked sunlight. The two combined make this land the perfect location to grow. But another threat to the farm came in 1982, almost crippling the field.

"My dad was tired and the diamondback moth was winning the battle, and he just wanted to give up, quit, and give back the lease to Bishop Estate and quit," said David.

That's when David and Barbara took over and, with the help of science, may have saved the entire industry. Sprinklers were installed to help wash moth eggs off the leaves and break the insect's life cycle.

"Once the other watercress farmers saw our success with the sprinklers, they installed them for their farms," said David.

Since then, production has been steady. Like any farm, keeping up with supply can be difficult and the future here is still uncertain, but right now...

"Right now, yeah we can," said David.

Sumida Farm's lease with Kamehameha Schools has been extended until 2032. David hopes to keep it running through then.


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