By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
IRVINE — Approximately 1,700 walkers enjoyed a day at Tanaka Farms last Saturday for the Walk the Farm benefit, which raised $85,000 to help Japan’s farmers recover and rebuild after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“Friends seeing old friends that they have not seen in a long time, great community event. And all for a wonderful cause,” said Glenn Tanaka, whose family has operated the farm since 1941.
Tanaka Farms is a working farm that produces fruits and vegetables and also provides educational tours for the public. As walkers toured the 25-acre farm, signboards posted in the fields explained some facts about Japan and the challenges facing the farmers in areas devastated by the tsunami and earthquake.
According to Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, approximately 2.5 million hectares (6.16 million acres) of rice fields have been damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Many areas will require desalination before rice can be planted again. The fundraiser was organized by Tanaka Farms and Orange Coast Optimist Club. Volunteers for the benefit included Asian Access, Cub Scout Pack 214, Interact Clubs, OCO Junior Optimists, Kids Walk America, OCO Board of Directors, OCO Octagons, Panasonic Avionics, Taiko Center of Los Angeles, Team Kids, Toyota Motors, Union Bank, Woodbridge High School Japanese Parent Group, and the OCO Young Adult Optimists. All food, water, produce, entertainment, supplies, labor and facilities were donated.
About 300 volunteers helped to guide the walkers and distribute fresh strawberries, shave ice, grilled corn and other goodies at stations throughout the farm.
Kristy Omura, who plays for OCO Orange Bang, held a sign written in Japanese.
“It says, ‘People live to help each other. Now is the time to come together as one,’” she explained.
Noritomo Komatsu, incoming chair of the Woodbridge High School Japanese Club, helped to roast bushels of corn. He noted that the students had been working since 7 a.m.
“The Japanese earthquake was horrible. A lot of people can’t go home, especially the farmers,” said Komatsu. “So we are going to help them.”