Orange County, Irvine Ranch Water Districts Renew Support to Help the Needy
Water Agencies Provide Free Farmland and Water
The Orange County Water District (OCWD) board of directors has approved the extension of a no-cost lease for a third-generation local farmer, A.G. Kawamura, to continue to farm vacant OCWD land to provide food for the needy through his Orange County Harvest program.
In addition, Irvine Ranch Water District will continue to provide water at no cost to Kawamura's harvesting program.
"This is a win-win for us. We support a worthwhile community program and save rate payers money on land maintenance costs," said Denis Bilodeau, recently elected president of the Orange County Water District.
At the end of the lease, the land will be used by OCWD and the Irvine Ranch Water District for a joint groundwater cleanup and water purification project called the Irvine Desalter Project.
Kawamura's farm program uses more than 2,500 youth volunteers to harvest about 65,000 pounds of fresh produce per year to feed hungry families, which equates to nearly 130,000 servings of food. The food produced as part of a work-training program ranges from potatoes to melons to carrots to peas and goes primarily to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. The Community Development Council Food Bank, churches and other agencies also receive fresh produce from the project.
The Irvine Desalter Project will actually be two projects in one. One part of the project will clean up contamination from the El Toro Marine base and use that water for landscape irrigation or industrial use. The second part of the project will clean up groundwater, containing high mineral levels, for use as drinking water.
The land was vacant until Kawamura of Orange County Produce, in collaboration with Orange County Harvest, approached the two water districts about four years ago to make use of the land for feeding the needy. People interested in volunteering for farm work and harvesting can call Orange County Harvest at 714/708-1597.