By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor in Chief
IRVINE — It was a beautiful day to be on the farm. For the second year, Tanaka Farms and Orange Coast Optimist Club sponsored the Walk the Farm fundraiser to benefit farmers in northern Japan. This year, there were 2,200 walkers and 16 stations offering farm fresh fruits and vegetables to sample.
“This year we asked more organizations to come out and help. They said ‘no problem’ and just jumped at the chance,” said Glenn Tanaka, whose family has operated the farm since 1941. “It’s a really unique event, not just a walk-a-thon, but being on the farm tasting vegetables.”
Tanaka Farms is a working farm that produces fruits and vegetables and also provides educational tours for the public.
At stations throughout the 25-acre farm, volunteers served grilled corn on the cob, sweet cherry tomatoes and fresh blueberries. For many, it brought back memories of growing up and working on family farms.
Norma Ichinaga said her father was a farmer in Orange County and she recalled picking strawberries.
“What Glenn has done is truly amazing, especially in such an urban area,” said Ichinaga.
Christine Chen said she was enjoying the event, noting that she walked in memory of Masaki Brothers Trucking.
“It’s wonderful, it’s something I think everyone should do,” Chen said.
Volunteers for the benefit included Masaki Brothers Trucking, Magarro Farms, Yoshinaga Family, Toyota, Union Bank, OC Produce/Yasukochi Family, Yonsei Basketball Association, Okamoto Orthodontics, A3M, Phoenix PDQ Inc., Hiroken, Sahu Subtropical Fruits, James Real Estate Management, the Takezawa family, Mitsuwa Corporation and Woodbridge High School Japanese Club. All food, water, produce, entertainment, supplies, labor and facilities were donated.
Avid Digital presented a gallery of photos taken of the 14 farmers who benefited from last year’s fundraiser. Tanaka led a group that visited the farmers in Sendai and Fukushima.
“The sad part is that probably about 12 or at least 10 of the farmers won’t be farming for three to five years. They’re older, so they might not even go back into farming,” Tanaka said.
He also donated to three orchard growers in Fukushima. Tanaka said he plans to make it an annual event to help farmers who continue to struggle from the impact of the March 11, 2011 disasters.
“They weren’t physically damaged, but there is the radiation stigma. They still have to maintain their property. So what do you do? I don’t know how long they can keep going,” Tanaka said.