From the Farmer's Tractor
June 23, 2013
Kenny Tanaka, 30, farms 30 acres in Irvine, California on his family-owned Tanaka Farms, LLC. Kenny, along with his parents, Farmer Tanaka and Shirley, grows a variety of fruits and vegetables and offers a CSA program and educational tours of the farm.
How did you get into farming?
Farming has been in the Tanaka family since 1940. Tanaka Farms began with great-grandfather Teruo who immigrated from Hiroshima-ken, Japan. Grandfather, George, was born in Dinuba, California. Farmer Tanaka is a "Sansei", a 3rd generation Japanese American, who was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. I have been farming full time since I was 21 years old.
How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?
Since we moved to this property on University Drive, we have used organic farming methods. This was in 1996. Before this we used all conventional farming methods. We are literally situated in the heart of Orange County development, which makes us unique as a farm.
How will farming evolve in the next five years?
Farming for us will change in the way we use our ground. We have many diseases in the ground that attack our pumpkin and strawberry plants. We will find new ways to help out the plants and the ground.
What is your greatest challenge as a farmer?
There are many challenges of being a farmer. Weather, insects, coyotes, water and, of course, the ground and soil itself. Those are just a few of the many challenges that affect us daily. Right now we are on a year-to-year lease with the city of Irvine. We are trying to get a long-term lease soon. For that reason, we grow mainly yearly crops. There’s always a chance we could lose the property.
Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?
Yes, all of our products are sold locally. Our farm is a little different than most farms in that we sell all of our product directly to the public with our farm tours, CSA program, and produce stand. We try to introduce our customers to the new and exciting new fruits and vegetables that we can grow here.
Our tours bring consumers onto the farm to learn how things are grown and they actually get to pick things from the ground. The CSA program takes boxes of produce straight to the consumer. Our produce stand is open year round for people to get fresh produce picked daily.
What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person?
People can't believe I'm a farmer. I don't look like a farmer and people wouldn't even realize I am one. It’s a different profession to have, especially in the middle of the city. People love coming out on the farm and like seeing the farmer out in the field to meet them.