Spring in Drought, some thoughts still in progress

Reflections by Nikiko

We kicked off spring in Oakland for the debut of a documentary film “Changing Season.” [NEXT showing in LA, info here!] It was an incredibly touching experience (and we’re so thankful for the relationships we continue to grow with our Peach Corps, who showed up in full force!).

I keep returning to one moment in the film when I’m standing in the kitchen with my dad, and we’re looking at groundwater maps. Even though our farm is located over a fairly healthy water table, nothing feels certain. We’re discussing the drought and the depletion of groundwater. I turn to my dad and ask, “Can you imagine the Masumoto family farm without peaches?”

Now I must pause and take a deep breath. A lot of things have to happen before we get to that decision point, but it’s a question that reflects the seriousness and hard questions this drought is provoking. What does sustainable agriculture look like in the Valley? How must we adapt to drought and plan for the future?

Lately the California drought has been buzzing in the state and national media. As Dan Charles from NPR suggests here, it seems that we’re looking for a villain. Someone to blame. Somebody to blame. Almond farmers? Farmers in general? California farmers? I’ve heard others point to market forces, to the rational decisions that farmers are making within the context of capitalism and consumer demand. Others point to historic patterns of over-promising water to both agriculture and people as population rises. In the midst of the dense figures and statistics, I find myself observing two things:

1) I keep wondering, what it would be like if we searched equally for drought heroes? Who are they? What are they doing? How can I be more like them?
2) It has felt like the sound-bite media has been pointing fingers at me (farmer = me). (This is a purely auto-ethnographic observation.)

I try to disrupt the impulse for defensiveness. I appreciate the call for accountability, the urgency for all of us and especially farmers to re-make our food system, and I am grateful for the critical perspectives and interrogations of savvy journalists that question some of the core trajectories and realities of agriculture in California and the United States (I deeply respect and listen to the work of Tom Philpott and On The Media‘s discussion of the CA drought), I also feel that there is a need to consider emotional intelligence: the ability to observe emotional responses and consider them as part of rational decision-making. This has been missing from the public discourse on farming and the drought.

As I struggle to translate the drought into choices for our future, I return to the question, “Can you imagine the Masumoto family farm without peaches?” I can’t help but feel an impulse to protect, to assert very aggressively: NO, that can’t be! Observing this reaction in myself, I realize changing how we farm strikes at some of the core parts of my identity.

To me, we don’t just grow fruit, this land and our perennial crops are deeply linked to a sense of who I am, to my ancestors who worked these fields and touched the bodies of our trees and vines. The landscape of our farm is my link to the memory of my family that I desperately want to keep alive. If we must change the landscape of agriculture to adapt to climate change and less water (and I think it’s pretty clear that we must), the process will involve profound loss.

There are farmers who have constructed their identities, families, and legacies upon the land. If we are to ask farmers to change how they farm, we might include considering and supporting a passage through grief, just as much as we support them in creativity and innovation.

Today, our farm is alive: the trees and vines full of vibrant greens. Baby fruit hang on the trees. There might be a blessing somewhere in this drought. I hope I will find the wisdom to create ways of preserving the essence of our farm, even as the landscape may change by necessity and the hard choices of how to use precious water.

In the mood for a CAAMFeast?

The Masumoto Family Farm is honored to be included as an awardee at the Center for Asian American Media’s annual event: CAAMFeast in San Francisco March 7th!  Come support Asian American media-making, feast with Asian American food pioneers and fellow awardees: Danielle Chang and Tim Luym. Three Masumotos will be there to connect & share the evening.

All the information you need:


Launch of new Local program “O, U Fab!” Fruit for pre-order & pick-up

“O, U Fab!” Fruit = Organic, Ugly and Fabulous

Inspired by the “Ugly Fruit” movement in Europe, we’re launching “Organic, Ugly & Fabulous!” or “O, U Fab!” – Masumoto Family Farm’s local connection for fruit & our effort to radicalize how we view the aesthetic value of food. Move over narrow definitions of beauty, “O, U Fab!” is about the whole-body experience of eating.

To take part in this project, read & pre-order your fruit today by starting here.

New Article: The Art of Pruning

by David Mas Masumoto

January 26, 2014

The Sacramento Bee

My father taught me how to prune a peach tree.

He began with an old tree with weaker branches and gaps where a limb had died and was sawed off. Why a misshapen specimen? Because my sage father knew I was young and learning how to prune; he wisely didn’t want to sacrifice a good tree.

Our pruning shears were designed for trees with big branches. The head had a curved blade and when cutting into a large branch, the wood was not pushed outward but drawn inward, perfectly aligning with the cutting blade. We could quickly snip and cut with rapid, fluid motions.

The biggest lesson was that trees like to be pruned. They wanted to be sliced and diced. They needed annual haircuts and longed to be freed of their rank growth.

Peach Week Launches the Perfect Peach, our first cookbook!

We are over-the-moon with our new cookbook and the beautiful responses we’ve gotten so far!

We’re thrilled to share our stories across many platforms…



New Article: David Mas Masumoto writes Graduation Speech

Viewpoints: Grads should display the Valley brand with pride

Special to The Bee

Published Sunday, May. 26, 2013

By David Mas Masumoto


To the graduating class of 2013: You are now and forever part of this Valley. You have now earned your certificate of authenticity. You have successfully matriculated a Valley Diploma.

Part of your life will always be grounded in the dirt here. Inside of all of you lies what is called a placed story; a seed has been planted, then germinated and grown into part of your personal history you cannot delete. Some will try denial, but you are part of this Valley forever. Continue reading