Grove Farm Story
Nophadom “Nap” Seechachet
Rich volcanic soil, well-managed water sources, lots of Kaua’i sunshine, and most importantly, the heart and dedication of farmers bring a bountiful assortment of locally grown harvests. This is the story of Nophadom “Nap” Seechachet; his cousin, Wirat Yothachai; and our visit to their farm.
We are transported to another world and forget for a moment that beyond the trees and fence line bordering Nap’s farm is the edge of Lihuʻe town. The noon sun was intense and intermittent showers made for a hot and humid summer day.
As we arrive, Nap offers us cold drinks and sits us in the shade of his open-air farm shed. A section of the shed is screened off, where two women bustle around a makeshift kitchen – one of them is Nap’s wife, Chalam. Wirat’s daughter, Nui, joins us. She and Nap share with us their story of sacrifice and hard work.
Nap and Wirat have farmed on Grove Farm lands in Lihue since 2012. With their wives and children, they devote their hearts and souls to farming.
Nap is the youngest of eight children and comes from generations of rice farmers in Thailand. He started working on Kaua’i as a contract worker in 2004. When his work visa expired, he returned to his native Thailand and later immigrated back to Kaua’i in 2010. Having worked for several agricultural-related businesses, he took a chance and ventured out on his own. He reunited with the rest of his family on Kaua’i in 2012. Nap’s cousin, Wirat, shares much of the same journey.
As we walk through his farm, Nap explains each vegetable and fruit. Every crop is marked with a scrap piece of wood with the date the seedlings were planted. This is how they estimate when the harvest will be ready.
Nap and Wirat start their day at the first sign of dawn, and while you would imagine a farmer's day ends by sundown, Nap does his restaurant deliveries in the evenings. Wirat markets his produce through many of the local farmer’s markets.
After walking through his last row of vegetables, Nap announces, “Okay, it is now lunch, then we go see the other farm.” He leads us back to the shed and we are in awe. Carefully laid out, savory Thai dishes await us. Wafting through the air is the aroma of peppers, lime, basil and jasmine rice. We are also treated to sticky rice, which is steamed and served in a woven basket. Watching Nap and Nui, we learn how to eat the sticky rice by picking-up a small serving size with your fingertips and gently molding it in the palm of one hand. The rice is cooked to perfection. Its steamed grains never left our hands feeling sticky, and of course, it was delicious, as was the entire meal.
Nap’s van was parked next to the shed. A beautifully crafted logo reads, “O.K. King Farm.” Nap explains that when he first arrived in Hawaii, life was difficult. He was without his family, not knowing when or if he would be deported. Now, he has his family, his farm is thriving, and “everything ‘O.K.’ – perfect now!”
After the delicious meal, we visit the farmland further west where Wirat’s son, Aung, is on a tractor preparing additional land for farming. Nap drops Chalam off to work with Wirat’s wife, Noi. In this area of the farm, they tend to an assortment of beans, broccoli, pumpkin, watermelon, radish, and other fruits and vegetables. We head further up the hillside where Wirat is working on variations of pineapples and dragon fruit.
We are amazed at the dragon fruit. They have found a way to take its prickly long tentacle-like arms and wrap it around a tree stump. Using old car tires they form tiers around the stump – a “dragon fruit tree” is formed, and the fruit becomes easily accessible. Coming from generations of rice farmers, we ask Nap and Wirat how they learned to farm such a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. They have learned from friends here and on Oahu. They share not only their knowledge but seeds as well – some seeds are ordered online.
It's time for us to leave. As enjoyable and educational our visit has been, we’ve taken up a considerable amount of the afternoon of these hardworking farmers. Nap tells us to stop at the lower farm. Since dropping Chalam off, she and Noi have been preparing gifts for us. We are beside ourselves when Nap and Wirat hand us armfuls of vegetables and pineapples to take home. The graciousness and generosity of Nap, Wirat and their families leave us overwhelmed.
The vast assortment of their thriving vegetables, fruits and herbs include arugula, mixed lettuce, kale, carrots, parsley, basil, bok choy, tomatoes, cucumber, mint, long beans, cilantro, green onions, chili peppers, jalapenos, red and golden beets, sweet potato, Swiss chard, pumpkin, radish, banana, papaya, eggplant, ginger, turmeric, dragon fruit, watermelon, lime, lemon, calamansi, pineapple, string beans, and dragon fruit.
If you are interested in purchasing Kauaʻi grown fruits and vegetables from these farmers, please contact Grove Farm at (808) 245-3678, and we can put you in touch with them.