Akira Nagamine came to the United States in 1956 with $24.32 in his pocket, a 30-month contract to work with a strawberry grower in Watsonville, CA, and the type of deep-seated knowledge of farming that could only be learned from generations of farmers before him. After his strawberry contract expired, he and his wife followed the crops until they landed year-round employment in a flower hothouse. Akira pooled together enough money with his brother Osamu Nagamine and brother-in-law Harry Fukutome to build out his greenhouses on credit based off of trust.
In 1967, he branched off on his own and founded A. Nagamine Nursery, which specialized in flowers. He and his wife raised their family on the farm, saving enough with their small business to send their children to college. When the flower industry moved largely to Central and South America in the1990's, Akira began diversifying his farm by growing vegetables, including their famed Japanese Cucumbers. In 2014, when Mr. Nagamine was 88 years old, the family considered closing down the farm, but he wasn't ready to lay down his tools quite yet, and he certainly wasn't ready to put the farm's foreman for 41 years out of a job.
It was at this point that Janet Nagamine, who had lived out her parents' dream by attending medical school and becoming a physician, returned to the farm. "The farm is a way for me to connect with my heritage and honor my parents' legacy," Janet told us. "I am grateful for the education and the opportunities they have given us, and it's time to give back." Janet came to realize that farming is not only what her father does, but it's the essence of who he is. His knowledge and techniques predate organic certification, so growing vegetables without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides comes naturally to him.
In returning to the farm, Janet has worked closely with Kitchen Table Advisors, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing small, sustainable Bay-area farms with the business and financial tools, knowledge and resources necessary to create and sustain viable businesses. With her help, her father, the farm's foreman, and their small crew, have doubled down on crops like specialty Asian greens, Japanese cucumbers, fresh edamame beans, and other crops that have received such inspiring feedback from chefs and retail customers alike. In the coming year, Janet is hoping to build out a value-added line of pickled vegetables and salad dressings in order to recapture the up to 50% loss in yield that's commonplace with organically-grown vegetables that are susceptible to even the slightest pest infestation that can render a crop unsellable.