Steve Holt writes about a range of issues. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Edible Boston and TakePart. We’ve shared Holt’s work before: Vermont: America’s food relocalization laboratory. You can follow Holt on Twitter and Instagram @TheBostonWriter.
In this piece, written for Civil Eats, Holt shares the story of David “Mas” Masumoto (@MasMasumoto). Masumoto is a third generation California farmer. He grows organic peaches, nectarines and raisins on an 80-acre farm south of Fresno. His daughter, Nikiko, is farming with him these days. Masumoto is the author of nine books, including the lyrical Epitaph for a Peach. Both he and Nikiko are alums of the University of California, Berkeley.
Like many producers, Mas Masumoto is facing extraordinary challenges as a result of California’s persistent drought. To conserve water, Masumoto provided less water to his peaches (between 20-30 percent less). The fruit he’s getting from his trees is small, but Masumoto says it tastes “great.” But the fruit isn’t selling, likely due to a consumer bias towards small or “imperfect” produce.
“What’s worse: composting the peaches back into the soil or knowing they are sitting in a store and no one wants to buy them?” laments his daughter, Nikiko Masumoto, 29. “This is happening right now. It’s heartbreaking.”
There is really bad news in this for the Masumoto family, because they view “the smaller fruit as the product of a long-term philosophical shift rather than just a short-term way to ride out the drought.”
“The last year or two made us very aware of how we have to change some of our practices, and really this question of sustainability — the way we were farming, believing that water was an unlimited resource, and how incorrect that was,” Mas says.
Will consumers adapt their purchasing behavior and consider buying smaller fruit? The future of the Masumoto’s farm — and other farms like it — may depend upon it. The Masumotos are hoping to use the power of social technologies to make their message — #SmallFruitRevolution — go viral.
Stay tuned; we’ll be following this story.