The Japanese kanji kibou meaning HOPE

Walk the Farm
2019
Harvesting "Hope" for farmers 
suffering from the devastation of natural disasters.​

Help us send the message of "Kibou" (Hope) 
to the farmers in Japan

Saturday, June 15th, 2019
check in between
9 am to 11 am

Tanaka Farms
5380 University Dr.
Irvine, CA 92612

Online registration NOW OPEN

PLEASE CARPOOL!!


Join us on a one and a half mile walk around a real working farm 
sampling fresh fruits and vegetables as we remember and send 
thoughts of "kibou" to those that are still suffering from the 
effects of the earthquake/tsunami on March 11, 2011.

(Sorry, NO Dog Walk this year!)

Be a FARM SPONSOR - $1000
Admits 10 walkers and 10 comp t-shirts

Be a STRAWBERRY SPONSOR - $500
Admits 5 walkers and 5 comp t-shirts

Be a CROP SPONSOR - $200
Admits 2 walkers and 2 comp t-shirts

Be a FRIEND OF THE FARMER - $100
Admit 1 walker and 1 comp t-shirt

Be a FRIEND OF THE FARM - $50
Admits 1 walker

Register as a WALKER - 
$25 (after May 31, $30)
Children 3 to 16 - $15 (after May 31, $20)
Under 3 years old free

Order tee-shirts picked up at the event - $15

Order tee-shirts to be mailed to you - $20

Please carpool, parking is limited!

THANK YOU TO OUR 
ENTERTAINERS!
from 2018

Da Hawaiian Delites
Endless Summer
Hanabi Taiko
Kokoro Taiko
Montessori Children's Choir
OCO Kibou Taiko & JCI Yuujou Taiko
Orange County Friendship Choir
Yuujou Taiko

THANK YOU TO OUR 
VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATIONS
from 2018

#HashtagLunchbagOC
AHTKY
Bolsa Interact
Budokan
Buffalo Wild Wings
Chapman women's basketball team
Disney VoluntEARS
Dr Wang
Fukushima Kenjinkai
H&H - Hitochi & Howard
Hiroken
Ironmen Basketball
Irvine Rotary Club
Keiro
Lion's Heart
Miyagi Kenjinkai
OC Imprints
OCBC Girl Scouts - Cadettes 675
OCBC Jr YBA
OCBC Sangha Teens
OCO
OCO - 6th grade girls
OCO 10th gradeOctagons
OCO 11th Octagons
OCO 12th Octagons
OCO 9th gradeOctagons
OCO BBQ Crew
OCO Cub Scout Pack 214
OCO Girl Scouts
OCO Junior Optimists
Orange County Queens Council
Rafu
Reverend Hasegawa
So-Phis
SOC
SOC Octagons
South Bay Community Church
Union Bank
VFW Youth Group
Yakult
Yonsei Basketball Association
​​
A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO OUR GENEROUS SPONSORS 
From 2018!

FARM SPONSORS
ARC Reprographics 
Buffalo Wild Wings, Irvine & Lake Forest, Randy Yamamoto
Gary & Kari Itano
Gregg Maedo & Associates
James Real Estate & Management
OC Imprints, Brett Hirata
Sanrio Inc, Ken Yamamoto President
Southwest Site Services
Union Bank
Union Bank, Airport Branch Staff
Yakult
Yasukochi Farms
Aiden, Tyler & Ethan Tanaka, --Madeleine & Olivia Castro and Emiko & Kojiro Tanaka
Arakaki, Cazares, D. Endow, Endow, Han, Iwami, Kouchi, Murota, Nino's, Okura Families
Fujishige Farms
Hollywood Buddhist Church
Ito Farms
Naritoku Charitable Foundation
Paul & Yvonne Murai
Rotary Club of Irvine
Sadakane Family
SOC - Suburban Optimist Club
SO-Phis
The J. Morey Company
The Kato Family

STRAWBERRY SPONSORS
Yonsei Basketball Association
Robin Yokotake
Anonymous
Asao & Kim Masumiya
Brian Thompson - Attorney at Law
Carelife Home Care
Dennis and Schwab, Inc.
George & Charlotte Higa
Hamamoto Families
Hiroe Kaya
Imaoka and Yamamoto Family
JACom Credit Union
Kikuchi Family
Little Tokyo Service Center
Long Beach Judo Dojo
Moshi and Greg Kimura
OCBC Project Kokoro
Rodger K. Uchizono, DDS
Roy, Lillian & Lianne Sasaki
Steven and Carolyn Watanabe Family
Ted E. Tayenaka, D.D.S.
The Capiital Group - Irvine
The Chu Crew - Chris, Holly, Kaitlyn and Kara Chu
The Kollar Family
The Yoshinaga Family
WATANABE FAMILY
Yonai / Richardson Family

CROP SPONSORS
AHTKY Insurance Agency, LLC
Akemi Miyake Farms
Alan and Sandi Kosaka
Allen & Gayle Goya
Alvin & Karole Hagino and family
Alvin and Marsha Wakasa
Angelo’s Original Drive- In Hamburgers
Anne and Midori Uyeda
Anonymous
AOYAGI FAMILY......LANCE, NAMI, DUSTIN, KIWI, RYAN & IPO
Ben Margie and Laura Higashi
Brent, Nick & Kris
Butsumyo Family
Carlblom family
Carol Tanita & Wayne Nagao
Centenary United Methodist Church
Craig and Karen Uchizono
David & Cathy Uyemura
Dean & Annette Ozawa
Dennis Yonetani & Pam Yamane - Kakimono LLC (Grant writing)
EDWARD AND GAIL IWASHITA
Elaine & Danny Ganiko
Ellyn Iwata
Ewa No Ka Oi
Garland and Debbie Nicklaus
Garrett H. Suemori
Gary and Frances Okura
Gerald & Kathy Tanaka
Glen & Carol Kazahaya
Glenn M. Nakatani, A Prof. Law Corporation
Goldenfire Ministries & Masai Family
Haines Family
Haley, Rylie, Sadie, Roy, & Aiden Hosokawa
Harakuni Family
Hong Kong Bakery & Deli
In memory of Clifford Valencia
In Memory of Namekata Bros. Farm
Jim and Patsy Matsushita & Family
Joe & Dianne Kujubu Belli
john pasodds inc
Jon, Jodi, and Nick Hisamoto
Joyce Baba & Jeff Duke
Joyce Chinn
Julie & Harry Lee
JYM Enterprises, Inc. dba Jack In The Box
Kaila & Cade Hatsushi
Karl & Jean Kawakami
Kathy Hirose
Kaylee, Grammy & Papa
Keith and Shannon Braesch
Ken, Kathleen & Bradley Nishida
Kent and Nancy Suzuki
Kevin, Teri, Landen, and Kaelyn Kawaguchi
Kimoto Family
Koichi & Pat Hosokawa
Kurtis S Kanemaru, DMD, Inc
Kusumoto-Lee-Hotema Family
Larry & Yvonne Namekata
LG Construction
Lynn and Calvin Chang
MAGARRO FARMS
Mak and Carolyn Okuno
Mark, Janet, Allyson, and Lynn Morishita
Mary and Jimmy Ota Farm and Nursery in Huntington Beach After Internment
Mateo Kibou, Alyssa Mayumi, Asher Kosuke Sue
Mel and Karen Makabe
Michael & Ellies Watanabe
Mikawa Farms Venice/Huntington Beach
Mitch & Donna Okuda & Family
Miyo Hongo and family
Murata Family
Nakase Family
Norman Nishizu Family
Orange County Land Management Service
Orange County Sansei Singles
Otsuka Family
Patti's Preschool, Inc.
Pax Industries
Paul and Judy Isozaki
Reanne, Caitlyn and Katie
Richard Sakatani & Family
Robbie & Dee Otsu
RON & MONICA MANO
Ronyama & Lilnish
Sakurao Family
Stan & Sharon Uchizono
Steve Tamura
Sugamura Family
Takata Family:Eddie,Karen,Matthew,Torrie,Oliver,Mark,Caitlin
Takenaga, Hashizu, Jay & Co.
Tanaka Riley Architects
Taster Teddy
The Eimoto Family
The Mebed Family
The Wongs - Kim, Julia, Lauren, Kirsten & Kevin
Yamanishi-Hsieh Family
Yokoyama Family
Yuujou Daiko

FRIEND OF THE FARMER SPONSORS
Amy Wong
Anonymous
Asao and Kay Kusano
Benir and Kamie Ruano
Brandon, Nancy, Micah, and Sienna Rogers
Cathy Fujimoto
CRFT by Maki
Dan's Handyman Maintenance
Duane & Shirley Asao
Eileen Aiko Matsumoto
Eric, Paige, Marissa & Reece Lizardo-Beach Blvd Pet Hospital
Friend
Grace Nakada
Hamaguchi Family
Hartung Family
Henley family
Howard S. Kunihiro DDS
Hutech Corporation
Hyodo Family
Ida Family
In memory of Dick Fujitani
Janet & Dennis Shiozawa
Janet Cheng & Family
Jo Ann Muto
John Kambe
Joyce Oyenoki
Kamiyama Family
Kenji and Yukie Hatsushi
Kenny, Kathy, Christine & Ryan Ganiko
Lynn Isomoto
Mae Nikaido
Mark & Patsy Duncan
Nagamatsu-Ishibashi Family
Nobuko Kumagai Christoph
One Up Vapor
Paula and Bryan Kadowaki
Renee Kimoto
Ron & Debby Ozawa and Family
Ron & Jeannie Toshima
Russell & Kristin Uchizono
Shadows For Peace
Steven & JoAnne Okamura
Susan & Dan Fukushima
Susan Maki
Terri Kato
The Bokosky's
The Iida Family
The Lum Family
The Noguchi Family
Tricia Maki
Tsutomu & Yuko Ganiko
Uyematsu Family
VSJT Hamasaki Family
West Covina Buddhist Temple
Yukie Gotanda

FRIEND OF THE FARM SPONSORS
David Butsumyo
Charlotte, Lloyd & Bixby Takahashi
E&E Murakami
Greg & Bonnie Goodman
Harumi Collection Art Gallery
In memory of Ua Truong
Ina Hikido
Saburo & Clara Horiba
Sugihara-Talor Family
Ted
Tomo & Taka Ishiwata
Wayne & Irene Koga

HARVESTING HOPE FOR FARMS IN JAPAN

Kizuna - the Bonds of Friendship

By Kara Chu, 9th Grade OCO Octagon President

I raced off the bullet train this summer, smiling widely with excitement at seeing my old friend, Mr. Ootomo. The last time I saw him four years ago, he was watering his vegetables with only a bucket in his determination to resume farming. It was then that I saw first-hand how the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan had completely and mercilessly obliterated his local farming community.

Mr. Ootomo welcomed us back with open arms. It was so great to see him again! At the train station, huge paper decorations for the Sendai Tanabata festival swayed colorfully. Thanks to the mentorship and coordination from Mr. Glenn Tanaka, we were also joined by our wonderful translator, Ms. Tina, and two deserving students, Genta Takahashi and Minori Goto, on scholarship from the Orange Coast Optimist Club (OCO) and Tanaka Farm's yearly June fundraiser in Irvine, Walk the Farm.

We all piled into his van, and as we drove through town, I solemnly noticed a highway overpass with a line that marked where the water level had reached during the tsunami. There was also a new super tall structure designated as an emergency shelter in case of a future tsunami. Newer temporary housing caught my eye, looking more like apartments than the hurriedly built rectangular portables I saw back in 2013.I learned that depression and domestic violence continue to be a cruel reality for residents. I was told the temporary housing units were all full, and about 230,000 people are still in temporary housing in Japan.

Many of us saw the horror of the earthquake and tsunami on the news. We watched the waves crush everything in its path. We watched homes and cars destroyed. Lives lost forever. What we did not see was the recovery from the disaster and how the Japanese people persevered through so much tragedy with "gaman." Gaman is a Japanese term which means "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity." Seven years later, through all of this stoic suffering, recovery and reconstruction are actively still ongoing.

Today, I would visit farmers that have received aid from the Walk the Farm fundraiser. We drove to a nearby farm, and after proudly showing me her restored small but flourishing plot of land, Farmer Kayoko firmly grasped my hands with her own worn and weathered hands. With her stooped shoulders, slight frame and grandmotherly glasses, I was surprised by the strength of her grip. I was then taken aback when she bowed so low and deeply towards me, a mere teenager. With raw emotion, she told me to tell everyone thank you for helping her family rebuild her swept-away home and farm. She said she was so grateful for everyone's support and all the blessings that kizuna has brought.

Kizuna. Before this trip, the only association I had with the word "kizuna" was with gokizuna.org, which provides valuable programs for Japanese American youth. I didn't know what the word meant. Kizuna means bonds and connections. One month after the devastation in 2011, Prime Minister Naoto Kan spoke of kizuna as the "bonds of friendship" as he described how over 130 nations and 40 international organizations swiftly came to Japan's aid. Throughout the day, the farmers kept mentioning kizuna and stressed with appreciation the importance of these local and international relationships in their recovery process. Every cloud has a silver lining. For the farmers, that silver lining has been kizuna.

In 2013, Mr. Ootomo's dream had been to move out of temporary housing into a permanent home. I was so happy to see a newly built house in the field we had visited four years before! He still grows fruits and vegetables, but he was sad to say that he had retired from farming. He is older, and it is too difficult for him to farm. Rather, he and his wife help the farming community by hosting events in their home. They arrange activities such as informative talks, sewing classes, exercise sessions, day-trips and picnics to lessen post-traumatic stress and anxiety for survivors. They also organize and deliver donated food to temporary housing residents. Mr. and Mrs. Ootomo feel that it is their mission to lift the spirits and to create and deepen kizuna within their community. He and his wife give their heartfelt thanks to Walk the Farm for providing financial and emotional support to the farming community in Idohama.

Farmer Sachio and Farmer Keiko, husband and wife, shared with us their horrific ordeal on that March 11th. Just as they began to describe it, Farmer Keiko began to cry, overcome with the memories from that day. When she began to speak, her words choked me up as they described their terrifying chain of events and showed us their pictures. Farmer Sachio was away from the farm when the tsunami surged through their community. Luckily, Farmer Keiko was able to run up to the second floor before the water inundated the first floor. However, four new tractors that they had just bought were swept away. One even turned on its side and slammed against their front door, trapping her inside overnight all by herself. The next day, her frantic husband was able to reach her by climbing on top of the tractor and smashing a window. I could not imagine going through that all by myself like Farmer Keiko bravely had; nor could I imagine the desperation Farmer Sachio must have felt in his efforts to reach her.

Their home was destroyed, and their farm decimated. After replacing the contaminated dirt with mountain soil, they resumed farming on only one third of the field they had before the tsunami. We saw the organic vegetables they grow and sell like cucumbers, green beans and Romanesco cauliflower. Later, I would instantly flash back to their uniquely-shaped Romanesco when we received it back home at the New Year Mochitsuki celebration at Tanaka Farms. What a coincidence! It reminded me of how small our world really is and how connected we are to each other with kizuna.

Next, we visited Mr. Hiroki Iwasa. He looked like a surfer dude (which he is!) He is also both a successful 41 year old IT venture businessman with an MBA and a strawberry farmer who is known as a pioneer in Agri-Tech in Japan. He has been a speaker at TEDx, Google, and even here in the city of Detroit to talk about using technology to revitalize declining cities into successful and sustainable communities based on their best asset, like agriculture. His innovation in farming has led to his inclusion in an elementary school science textbook. He even checks his crops on a Segway with a tablet in hand - that's one cool dude!

Mr. Iwasa was living in Tokyo in 2011, but three days after the disaster, he rushed to help his coastal hometown, Yamamoto-cho in the Miyagi prefecture. There, the 33 feet high waves swept away 125 out of the 129, or a heartbreaking 95% of all the strawberry greenhouses. Many of the survivors' livelihoods were destroyed, and they were left with very little except each other.

Mr. Iwasa knew that he had to help after seeing the devastation. He started off volunteering with the clean-up efforts. He approached the city's elders, and they pleaded with him to create jobs in their city. Their own sons and daughters and other young residents had left for bigger cities to find work. For the younger generation, farming was no longer considered a viable career option, highlighted by the average age for farmers being 67, the high costs of small field farming, and the 25% fall in agriculture's contribution to the economy.

An entrepreneur since elementary school, Iwasa had no farming experience. His only work experience had been in his startup IT ventures, but he did not let that stop him to do what he could for his kizuna. He decided to "put the thought into action, work hard, and achieve." So, he thought about what made his city unique and marketable. Yamamoto was known for its delicious strawberries. His own grandfather had grown strawberries there 50 years ago. Iwasa was determined to help rebuild his hometown by getting younger generations more involved and interested in agriculture by reviving the local strawberry industry.

Amazingly, he and his his co-founders, Tadatsugu and Yohei Hashimoto, created General Reconstruction Agency Group (GRA, Inc.) in July of 2011, just a few short months after the earthquake and tsunami struck. Iwasa learned the traditional techniques of growing strawberries, but he realized the grueling hours and long 15 year learning curve would discourage younger generations to farm. Other roadblocks included the lack of resources in raising the capital needed for a farm and farm equipment, the ability to consistently produce a quality product, the establishment of reliable sales, and the attainment of a desirable work-life balance.

Iwasa took risks and used unprecedented methods for producing the strawberries. Due to the contaminated soil, he adapted by planting his berries in "benches" that are about one meter above the ground. He used his experience in coding to create cutting-edge technology for strawberry greenhouses using one hundred sensors and custom climate-control software to manage temperature, irrigation, nutrients, pests without pesticides, humidity and sunshine to grow high-quality strawberries. GRA utilizes information and communication technology such as cloud and even big data analysis for these state-of-the-art greenhouses. Incredible!

Iwasa planted fifty-five different types of strawberries, most of them failures, to find the best one. The best varieties for Yamamoto were determined to be the Tochiotome and Mo Ikko varieties. They named these strawberries, Migaki Ichigo, which means "strawberry gems." Just one of his deliciously sweet strawberries with its diamond logo can sell for $10 each in high-end department stores in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. The strong brand recognition for his high quality and stable supply of products has tripled the price of his strawberries. He also sells strawberries to supermarkets and through online sales, and he has come up with products including strawberry beverages and skincare that will sustain business when the strawberries are not in season.

"I want to get people to think agriculture is cool," Iwasa enthusiastically exclaimed. "I want them to know that even from a small Miyagi town, you can expand worldwide. I want Japanese farmers to know Japanese agriculture can be a global success." Thanks in part to advances in Agri-Tech in Japan, farm workers under the age of 49 increased from 18,000 in 2010 to 23,000 in 2015, although retiring farmers have resulted in an overall decline in total farmers. To generate interest in farming in even younger generations, GRA organizes tours for junior high and high school students. Iwasa's farm, Ichigo World (Strawberry World), has become a popular tourist farm destination, and attracts over 10,000 visitors worldwide annually. I know I would love to visit their Ichigo World and do their all-you-can-pick-and-eat!

GRA has purposefully started a strawberry academy to educate young farmers and support them until they can start their own farms. Since there were no hotels in the area, GRA built its own dormitory just for them. Academy farmers are given training for a full year and then provided help to locate, set-up, and build their own greenhouses. This gives them the safety-net to quit a current job and see agriculture as a feasible career option. Afterwards, GRA supports them by remotely monitoring their environmental data, offering advice, sharing cultivating techniques and fine-tuning equipment set-up. Additionally, these new farmers are given help with branding their products and establishing sales channels for dependable revenue. In this way GRA supports farmers to increase productivity, lower costs, use less resources like water and pesticides, decrease labor, and improve crops for maximum profits. Wow!

Walk the Farm is supporting Yasuhito Naito with quarterly donations over the next five years. This young man traveled to Sendai to volunteer with clean up, and like Iwasa, he is now passionate about helping rebuild the region. He quit his job in the city and returned to Yamamoto-cho to become a farmer. His goal is to train eleven new farmers over the next five years. We look forward to seeing his progress!

Not only was I so appreciative of the opportunity to meet and be inspired by Mr. Iwasa, but our two scholarship recipients were as well!

Genta Takahashi was the first recipient of a four-year Walk the Farm scholarship. He is a student at Iwate University, majoring in Agriculture. His home was damaged by the tsunami, and he remembers going hungry for a period of time during the disaster. It motivated him to want to study agriculture and somehow be a part of the solution to prevent that from happening again. He wants to be a "power of reconstruction" in the Miyagi area and to engage in the production, processing, and research of food. He was very interested in Mr. Iwasa's use of technology with agriculture to help reconstruct Yamamoto. Genta was inspired by the farmers' enthusiasm and perseverance who never gave up even with repeated and disheartening failures.

Minori Goto, another scholarship recipient from Iwate University, has been studying nutrition and biochemistry. She plans to contribute to the safety and security of food made in the Tohoku area. Minori hopes to do this by evaluating the radioactivity and agricultural chemicals in local food. She was inspired by Mr. Iwasa, and she will never forget his story of progress and recovery.

Mr. Iwasa's story was so inspiring to me because although he didn't know a thing about strawberry farming, he created a better method to grow strawberries by focusing on the skills he did have in IT and saved his ailing hometown. His story of being rejected by department store fruit buyers even when he brought free mouth-watering strawberry samples EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR SIX STRAIGHT MONTHS until he finally got a sales order shows me that I can succeed even when I fail hundreds of times.

He opened my eyes to skills-based volunteering and social entrepreneurship to achieve innovative change for social, cultural and environmental challenges. I also learned about the Japanese concept of ikigai which means the passion that brings meaning to life: Find out what you love; find out what you're good at; find out what you can get paid to do, and find out what the world needs you to do. Mr. Iwasa has taught me to have confidence in my dreams, to never give up, to question traditional ways of doing things(sorry Mom and Dad!), and to always take action by collaborating and giving back to others to my hometown of Irvine and my Japanese American community - my kizuna.

So, please join me in our annual fundraiser, Walk the Farm, at Tanaka Farms in Irvine on June 16th! It is a one and half mile walk around the farm, and you get to sample yummy fruits and vegetables along the way. Visit WalkTheFarm.org for more information and to register or donate now! Walk the Farm not only supports Japanese farmers, but it has also aided our own local farmers here in the U.S. that have suffered from natural disasters such as the tornadoes in Oklahoma and the drought that impacted farming families in Central California. Currently we are looking at ways to assist farmers in Hawaii affected by recent flood and volcanic activity. So when you sign up for Walk the Farm, or sign up to volunteer, or become a sponsor, know that you are strengthening your kizuna here and across the globe!  
Walk the Farm is not only about helping others in need, it is also about helping us, the donors and volunteers, by opening our eyes and seeing the good people in the world around us. This is evident by the experiences of the Chu sisters.

Four years ago Kaitlyn Chu made the Yonsei Basketball team and with her younger sister Kara, mother and father traveled to Japan. The Chu family being active members of OCO and volunteers at Walk the Farm and at the insistence of Kaitlyn, seized the opportunity and extended their stay to visit the farmers in Sendai that Walk the Farm has been aiding. Click here to read an essay that she wrote and was published in the Rafu about her experience. 

This past year, younger sister Kara made the Yonsei Basketball team and once again the Chu family took advantage of the opportunity and returned to Sendai to visit farmers and check on their progress. This is Kara's experience: