By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
IRVINE — Roger Kinoshita pointed to a signboard for Kinoshita Farms and said, with pride, “Those are my grandparents.”
At the 10th annual Walk the Farm on Saturday, Tanaka Farms and OCO unveiled a new project: honoring the legacy of Issei and Nisei farmers. Kinoshita is part of the committee that has been gathering the histories of farming families.
Sanji and Sho Kinoshita founded Kinoshita Farms in Anaheim after their release from Heart Mountain. Samantha Kinoshita writes that the family farm grew lettuce in the fall and winter, and delicious white corn in the spring and summertime.
Arlene Kato and Lillian Sasaki shared the story of their family farm, Kato Farms. The Katos grew Anaheim chilis, asparagus, bell peppers, bush beans, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, and tomatoes.
“It was a big family — everyone farmed together,” Sasaki recalled.
Personal photos and recollections of more than 80 families have been gathered to date for the project. At Walk the Farm, the histories were displayed on a wall of wooden pallets and an online repository has been created. Farming legacy committee members are Glenn Tanaka, Kara Chu, Kato, Kinoshita, Joyce Mebed, Daryl Sadakane and Sasaki.
Chu said the hope is to create a comprehensive database of Japanese American farming history in the U.S. Submissions are still being accepted and all types of farming and regions of the country are encouraged to submit farming family histories.
So far, many of the submissions are from Southern California, but the group has also received histories of farms in Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Utah.
“Mr. Tanaka mentioned this project and I really wanted to help,” Chu said. “I put together the Google form submission and also created the new Walk the Farm website because I wanted to incorporate all of these stories. I really wanted to make sure there is a platform for the pictures and stories and to see them on a map of the U.S.”
Walk the Farm also celebrated 10 years of helping Japanese farmers in the Tohoku region, after the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake. Proceeds from the event are providing five students with scholarships to study agriculture at Iwate and Fukushima universities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraiser has helped purchase farm products from local struggling family farms and feed 1,500 families.
To view the farming family stories or find out more infomration to submit your own stories, visit www.walkthefarm.org.
Photos by GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo