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https://www.usa.gov/government-workshttps://www.rawpixel.com/image/3306904Kitayama Brothers, Inc. Facilities Manager Stuart Kitayama talks about this family business that was founded by his father…Save

Kitayama Brothers, Inc. Facilities Manager Stuart Kitayama talks about this family business that was founded by his father Ray Kitayama and uncles in 1970, and how the 40 acres of green houses plus outdoor fields in Watsonville, CA have benefited from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), on Thursday, August 27, 2015.

Agriculture has been a part of the Kitayama family for three generations, since before WWII, when his grandfather Takeshi Kitayama began growing flowers and vegetables on Bainbridge Island in the Pungent Sound of Washington. In 1945, after internment at the Manzanar camp in California, his grandfather’s sons Tom and (Stuart’s father) Ray Kitayama, started a nursery; and the business grew. They became leaders in the wholesale flower industry. As the business grew, more family members joined and formed Kitayama Brothers, Inc. in the mid-90’s. Today, the business produces a variety of lisianthus, lily, Gerbera, snapdragon and others, additionally; land is leased to other growers for strawberries and a variety of other crops. Located ¼ mile from the Pacific Ocean (Monterey Bay) Kitayama Brothers, Inc., employs 100 - 300 people depending on the time of year. To water all the flowers, the business uses a combination of irrigation water sources that include ground water wells; sterile reclaimed and recharge water from Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA), a rainwater collection system, hydroponics, and micro irrigation systems. Over the past 15 years, the amount of water from PVWMA has been reduced by 2/3s, making onsite ground water wells ever more important, and a factor in groundwater deletion. Today, there is a high demand on well; this has been a factor in (seawater) salt intrusion in all of their wells, one having to be shutdown, because of the salty water harms plants. There must to be enough fresh water in aquifers to fill the underground basin to resist the inland migration of coastal seawater through the land in between.

About this time, during 2007-2008, he turned to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and talks began about a green house roof drainage system that harvests rainwater. Through a system of pipes, water collects in a plastic lined pond for immediate indoor micro irrigation. KBI were active members of the agricultural community and sought water supply development and filtration solutions to improve efficiency and lower operating costs years before the current drought conditions.

Financial incentive cost shares from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and technical support from an USDA NRCS engineer to help design and plan the pond lining and other system improvements and additions.

The system has been in operation for one and a half years and has captured 12 acre/feet of water in its first year. It not only captures the water from the greenhouse roofs, it also allows water to be blended with water from well systems and/or reclaimed water from the PVWMA. The pond also allows the business to save money by running electrical pumps during low demand periods of the power grid, when electricity costs are lower. As refinements are made, greater levels of efficiency and cost savings are expected.

An additional system captures water from their hydroponic nursery systems that uses filters and UV light to clean and sterilize the water for in-ground plants. Water used in those fields; percolate down through the soil, helping to recharge the subsurface water basin; help resist salt intrusion, and return as a water resource for their irrigation wells.

Through discussions with the local Community Water Dialogue (CWD,) and equipment loan from the Resource Conservation Districts (RCD), he learned about the use and potential benefits of wireless soil tensiometer and completed a trial use. As they learn to use the recorded data, they see a possible 10-15% reduction in water use by eliminating overwatering on the sandy soil in this area.

Kitayama Brothers, Inc. strives for quality and efficiency and report that the clean water sources they are harvesting and using provides better quality and yields. USDA photo by Lance Cheung. Original public domain image from Flickr

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Kitayama Brothers, Inc. Facilities Manager Stuart Kitayama talks about this family business that was founded by his father Ray Kitayama and uncles in 1970, and how the 40 acres of green houses plus outdoor fields in Watsonville, CA have benefited from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), on Thursday, August 27, 2015.

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