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Hawaiian Farmers Brave Lava To Harvest Their Crops

Lava spews in Kilauea's East Rift Zone on May 23, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii, amid eruptions from the Kilauea volcano.Ronit Fahl—AFP/Getty Images

The ongoing eruption of Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island is starting to have a noticeable impact on the state’s agriculture industry and some farmers, cut off by lava flows, are resorting to unusual methods to harvest their crops, according to a recent report in Hawaii News Now.

The state department of agriculture estimates the eruption has resulted in over $14 million in losses for farmers on the island. That figure is likely to rise as the lava continues to flow, with no predictable end in sight.

Rusty and Jenny Perry, owners of the Kapoho Grown farm, told the local news outlet that they had to rush out several weeks ago as lava approached their property. Ultimately, it ran across their driveway, making access to the orchard seemingly impossible, they

The crops, though, weren’t impacted by the flow, meaning the lychee, apple bananas and papaya were sitting on the vine, but inaccessible.

Neighbors have banded together to help the Perrys, letting them drive through their land and, in one case, cut down a fence, to travel to their orchard without having to cross the lava stream. The couple now goes in several days a week with two workers to harvest what they can.

“I would much rather be here, but we don’t want to spend the night here anymore,” Rusty Perry told Hawaii News Now. “We can see the flow going down but nothing says it has to go in that direction.”

Even though they’re avoiding the lava, the work isn’t without risk. Gas emissions and fumes from the lava are dangerous, which (in part) has led to Hawaii enacting $5,000 fines and possible jail sentences for tourists who enter lava zones that have been closed off to the general public.

New lava zones from Kilauea continue to emerge on Hawaii without warning and the flow has already devoured over 500 homes. The lava evaporated Hawaii’s Hawaii’s largest freshwater natural resource, called Great Lake, in just a few hours.

And officials say the activity could bring about a financial crisis on the island, as ‘volcano insurance’ isn’t an option for most Hawaiians.

The eruptions have been ongoing since May 3 and lava now covers just shy of 6,000 acres or 9.25 square miles of the island.