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On a sunny Saturday afternoon in September, my friends and I made a trip to Irvine to visit Tanaka Farms, a 30-acre farmland that produces an abundance of fruits and vegetables. To start off, Tanaka Farms is a working farm owned and operated by Farmer Tanaka, a third generation Japanese American, and his family. Their large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables supply their produce stand, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, and the educational tours that they hold right at the farm.
Since 1998, they have continued to practice responsible farming methods after they were forced to move their farming operation. Such responsible growing methods include crop rotation, companion farming, and the use of compost and organic fertilizers in their soil. As a way to avoid depleting the nutrients from the soil, they rotate their crops. In addition, they plant different types of crops close to one another which benefits the plants through factors like pest control and pollination. Furthermore, as a way to conserve water, they use special reclaimed water, underground drip irrigation, and plasticulture which has allowed them to use up to nearly 95% less fresh water than conventional farms (Tanaka Farms).
Upon arrival to the farm, my group went to the entrance which is connected to the farm’s market stand that features its fresh seasonal produce and its commemorative Tanaka Farms + Sanrio branded merchandise. There, we reserved our spots for the melon tour for eighteen dollars per person. Their melon tour includes a guided wagon ride around the farm, samples and knowledge of their different fruits and vegetables in season, and your own melon at the end of the tour.
Before heading to the tractor pulled wagon, we walked amongst their carnival-like area which had games, food, photo opportunities, and arts and crafts. There was also a section for guests who came for the corn tour, where they got to enjoy a fresh roasted ear of corn with their choice of toppings. During the guided tour of the farm, we made several stops so we could try samples of the fresh produce harvested from the farm such as carrots, sugar snap peas, celery, and corn while learning interesting facts about the farm. For example, onions are planted between strawberries or carrots as a natural pest deterrent. Then, we stopped at their tasting tent to sample different types of melons like watermelon and cantaloupe. As we wrapped up, we got to pick what melon we want to take home.
I find that this experience supports the core values of the Slow Food movement in being good, clean, and fair for all (Slow Food USA). Through doing good, it provides fresh produce to its community and allows guest to sample its fruits and vegetables. By maintaining cleanliness, they practice responsible growing methods. Furthermore, they have a CSA program that offers seasonal local produce and promotes healthy eating habits. Lastly, it is fair in that those who can afford to visit the farm and attend its tours can come by and participate. Tanaka Farms also participates and hosts events which aim to give back to the community such as the Walk for Childhood Cancer and the Helping Farms Feeding Families Program. Through visiting the farm, participating in the CSA program, or purchasing produce from its market stand, Tanaka Farms provides the opportunity for its local community to source local products and enjoy the process of preparing a meal instead of getting food from a fast food chain which is unhealthier. In addition, they are educating future generations through its educational tours while providing a fun time through its partnership with Sanrio. “Slow Food endorses the primacy of sensory experience and treats eyesight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste as so many instruments of discernment, self-defense, and pleasure” (Petrini, 2001, p. 69). With this, Tanaka Farms also touches upon the sensory experience, allowing guests to see, touch, smell, and taste samples of produce they are given throughout the tour.
Overall, I enjoyed every second of this event. The experience was worth the cost and I definitely would love to go back again. I did not expect so much, so it was very fun to taste all the fresh fruits and vegetables as well as to explore the farm and to see what it offers. I think it is great that we have Tanaka Farms because it’s educational, sustainable, and entertaining for families to come and enjoy therefore reconnecting people to the way we produce food and linking food to community development.
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