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Otow Orchard

(Granite Bay,CA)

Otow Orchard is a small family-operated farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains east of Sacramento, surrounded by development. It was started by Chris Kuratomi's grandparents, Kichitaro and Momi Kawano around 1910, before Asian immigrants were legally allowed to own land in California. By forming a land company the Kawano's were able to purchase, clear and begin the original farm which still operates in the same location. Now in her nineties, Helen Otow, Chris's mother, continues to work everyday in the farming operation. She helped her parents create the orchard, helped her husband farm it, and now helps her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren continue the tradition. On any given day, you might find four generations busily waiting on customers at the farm stand, working the land, picking the harvest, or fielding questions from folks who want to know how their food reaches this final stage. Sales of our harvest are year-round, with our summer season being the busiest. During the summer our farm stand sells more than 20 varieties of peaches, almost 20 varieties of plums, pluots, Asian pears, European pears, cherries, apricots, figs and a wide array of garden produce. January through mid-May is a slower time, with only hoshigaki and citrus fruits offered for sale. In the Spring and Fall, organic vegetable seedlings from Peas and Harmony are for sale at our farm stand. Our harvest does include a dozen or so products which are included in Slow Food's Ark of Taste. Gravenstein apples, Blenheim apricots; Meyer lemons; Mission olives; Fay Elberta, Rio Oso Gem, Silver Logan, and Sun Crest peaches; Elephant Heart, Laroda and Mariposa plums and Japanese Massaged Dried persimmons all appear on the Ark of Taste's list. Other unique fruits include chocolate and vodka persimmons, quince, jujube, loquats, white pomegranates and mulberries. At Otow Orchard we host school field trips and classes from the neighboring college, allow our patrons freedom to roam the orchard, work cooperatively with other growers to market their products, conduct lessons in the art of hoshigaki (Japanese massaged dried persimmons), work together with other ventures on our farm site, provide internship experience, and donate produce to feed the homeless and hungry. Peas and Harmony has a demonstration garden at our orchard, and sells organic vegetable seedlings and compost at our farm stand. Our biggest obstacle on the road to sustainability is the cost of water. The San Juan Water District has installed meters and charges residential rates for agricultural use of water. They claim it will take legislative action to remedy the situation, but to date our representatives are reluctant to get involved. We refer to our operation as "faith-based". We use no chemicals and trust that creation has its own solutions if we utilize the resources it provides.

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