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The Family Peach Farm That Became A Symbol Of The Food Revolution

Mas Masumoto grew adult on his family plantation southeast of Fresno, Calif. His 1987 letter Epitaph for A Peach, in that he bemoaned a detriment of heirloom flavors, prisoner his changing truth as a farmer. It also helped spin his plantation into a landmark in a local-food movement.i

Mas Masumoto grew adult on his family plantation southeast of Fresno, Calif. His 1987 letter “Epitaph for A Peach,” in that he bemoaned a detriment of heirloom flavors, prisoner his changing truth as a farmer. It also helped spin his plantation into a landmark in a local-food movement.

Dan Charles/NPR


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Dan Charles/NPR

Mas Masumoto grew adult on his family plantation southeast of Fresno, Calif. His 1987 letter Epitaph for A Peach, in that he bemoaned a detriment of heirloom flavors, prisoner his changing truth as a farmer. It also helped spin his plantation into a landmark in a local-food movement.

Mas Masumoto grew adult on his family plantation southeast of Fresno, Calif. His 1987 letter “Epitaph for A Peach,” in that he bemoaned a detriment of heirloom flavors, prisoner his changing truth as a farmer. It also helped spin his plantation into a landmark in a local-food movement.

Dan Charles/NPR

In a heart of California’s Central Valley, a immeasurable area of orchards, vineyards, and unfeeling fields, lies a tiny collection of aging pink trees. Farmer Mas Masumoto’s preference to safety those trees, and afterwards to write about it, became a pitch of insurgency to machine-driven food production.

Yet a Masumoto farm’s story isn’t usually one of saving peaches. It’s spin a father-daughter tale of claiming, abandoning, and afterwards re-claiming a square of America’s tillage heritage.

Mas Masumoto, now 61, grew adult on that farm, that lies usually southeast of Fresno. His relatives bought it after their recover from internment camps where a U.S. supervision detained Japanese-Americans during World War II.

At that time, a estimable Japanese-American village lived here. But a village dwindled as Mas’s era went off to college. The Central Valley, with a dry landscape of vineyards and orchards, has prolonged been deliberate a informative backwater that desirous people wish to leave.

Mas Masumoto left, too —- he complicated sociology during a University of California, Berkeley, and trafficked in Japan — yet he was one of a few who returned to a family farm. He met his wife, Marcy, and they had dual children. Their daughter, Nikiko, is a oldest.

In 1987, this plantation reached a branch point: Big pink buyers no longer wanted a peaches — a accumulation called Suncrest.

“It was an aged heirloom accumulation that didn’t have a right cosmetics for a marketplace,” Masumoto recalls. “It didn’t get lipstick-red when it was ripe. It didn’t have a shelf life that a marketplace was demanding. So it had spin blacklisted. We had 2,000 20-pound boxes of it in cold storage with no buyers.”

They were losing thousands of dollars on those peaches. So Masumoto did dual things. He scheduled a bulldozer to rip out those archaic trees, and he sat down during his typewriter.

Nikiko Masumoto, her father, Mas, and her mother, Marcy, check one of a aged Suncrest pink trees that Mas roughly broken in 1987.i

Nikiko Masumoto, her father, Mas, and her mother, Marcy, check one of a aged Suncrest pink trees that Mas roughly broken in 1987.

Dan Charles/NPR


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Dan Charles/NPR

Nikiko Masumoto, her father, Mas, and her mother, Marcy, check one of a aged Suncrest pink trees that Mas roughly broken in 1987.

Nikiko Masumoto, her father, Mas, and her mother, Marcy, check one of a aged Suncrest pink trees that Mas roughly broken in 1987.

Dan Charles/NPR

He wrote an essay called “Epitaph for a Peach,” a unhappy strain of regard for a kind of pink that “tasted great, like a pink is ostensible to.” He described how a nectar of this pink “exploded in your mouth and tickled we with a message, ‘aaah, this is a peach!’ “

“It hurts,” he wrote, to see “flavor mislaid along with meaning.”

He mailed a letter to a Los Angeles Times, that published it. Then letters started to arrive during a Masumoto farm. “Keep this peach!” a letters told him. “It’s value it!”

He showed them to his wife, Marcy. “I said, ‘What’s some-more important, $20,000 or 20 letters?’ ” he says. “She looked during me and rolled her eyes.”

“I’m thinking, Marcy, keep a day job!” Marcy Masumoto says, laughing.

This is an important, practical, partial of a story. Marcy’s jobs — during a sanatorium in Fresno, and afterwards during Fresno State University — gave Mas a bravery to take risks with a farm. For instance, on that day when a male showed adult to dig a Suncrest pink trees.

“He’s a classical picture of a man who drives a bulldozer, cigar out of his mouth, and he says, ‘OK, where’s your margin to wrench out?’ ” Masumoto recalls. “And we said, ‘You know, we consider we competence keep it.’ And he barks during me, ‘Well, it’s going to cost we additional for me to come out later. You sure?’ And we said, ‘Yeah, we consider I’ll keep this.’ And that was a branch point.”

It was a branch point, both many and philosophically. It put Masumoto in hold with what he calls “the food world” — a universe of people who unequivocally cared about season and how their food was grown.

“That food universe was usually starting to raze by a 1980s and, of course, a 1990s, and that’s accurately where this pink accumulation fit, in this new universe of food,” Masumoto says.

He started tillage organically. He got in hold with farmers markets in places like San Francisco and Berkeley — places that are distant away, in each sense, from a large plantation operations of a Central Valley. Through those contacts, he met a cook and food romantic Alice Waters.

“He was so eloquent, and we knew that we indispensable to ambience his peaches,” says Waters.

Waters started portion those peaches during her landmark restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, and she sang a praises of a rancher who saved his heirloom orchard. “I have always wanted to support a people who are holding caring of a land, and it’s that personal story that connects a food to a people who come and eat here,” she says.

The story spread. In 1996, Masumoto published a book-length imagining on farming, also called Epitaph for a Peach.

The plantation became a landmark in a local-food movement. People sought out his fruit, and a plantation thrived.

This might sound like a finish of a story, yet it’s not, since a new era is about to take on this legacy.

Mas Masumoto’s daughter, Nikiko, never suspicion this plantation was anything special. For her, it was usually partial of flourishing adult in a Central Valley, a place that she approaching to see, flattering quickly, in her rear-view mirror. “It’s unequivocally common in tillage schools that ‘success’ is tangible as going divided and not entrance back,” she says.

So off she went to a University of California, Berkeley. She desired it. “I was off in my land of gender and women’s studies, feminist theory, unequivocally furious and domestic ideas, and we motionless to take an environmental studies class,” she recalls.

One day, in that class, a visiting orator laid out a environmental impact of food production, how tillage degraded inlet with plows and pesticides. And it dawned on her that her parents, planting cover crops and wildflowers in their organic orchard, were indeed doing something important.

That suspicion was followed by another one: The many radical thing that she could presumably do would be to go home.

“My sealing of a understanding was, on my 21st birthday, we gave myself a present of a pink tattoo,” she says. “And we consider that’s when my relatives satisfied — oh, she’s critical about entrance behind to a farm!”

It did not go wholly smoothly, though. The work was hard, and operative with family was even harder. Nikiko took a mangle and went to grad school.

Some grape vines on a Masumoto plantation are roughly a hundred years old. Mas Masumoto's father purchased a plantation after World War II, yet he says it's probable that his grandparents, who were derelict newcomer farmworkers, worked on this plantation and pruned those vines.i

Some grape vines on a Masumoto plantation are roughly a hundred years old. Mas Masumoto’s father purchased a plantation after World War II, yet he says it’s probable that his grandparents, who were derelict newcomer farmworkers, worked on this plantation and pruned those vines.

Dan Charles/NPR


hide caption

itoggle caption

Dan Charles/NPR

Some grape vines on a Masumoto plantation are roughly a hundred years old. Mas Masumoto's father purchased a plantation after World War II, yet he says it's probable that his grandparents, who were derelict newcomer farmworkers, worked on this plantation and pruned those vines.

Some grape vines on a Masumoto plantation are roughly a hundred years old. Mas Masumoto’s father purchased a plantation after World War II, yet he says it’s probable that his grandparents, who were derelict newcomer farmworkers, worked on this plantation and pruned those vines.

Dan Charles/NPR

But afterwards she was drawn back, for a second time, by something some-more personal.

Her father’s father, who’d come here from a internment stay to buy this land, was dying.

“I flew home from Texas, and my craft landed early,” she says, with a locate in her throat. “My mom picked me up, and we went home to a house, that is now my house, and he upheld divided in a vital room, in a plantation house.”

Nikiko Masumoto suspicion about her grandfather’s choice, in formidable circumstances, to settle here. “I mean, that strength, and his energy to explain this place in America, in a nation that had usually unequivocally clearly told him and all of us that we don’t belong. For him to interest a place here, it’s roughly a bequest that we can’t spin divided from. we have to be here.”

Nikiko Masumoto changed into a aged farmhouse where her grandparents had lived. That was 4 years ago.

She’s a unaccompanied figure among farmers in a Central Valley: young, womanlike and Japanese-American. But, she says, she’s come behind to a plantation “for good.” Gradually, she’ll take over a farm. The routine of training how to work with this land, and these trees, is usually only beginning.

And those Suncrest pink trees? Some of them still remain. They’re aged and disfigured and weather-beaten, yet Mas Masumoto finds them beautiful. “In one sense, they saved a farm,” he says. “But they unequivocally saved a essence of a farm.”

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