Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bob Y. Sakata Interview
Narrator: Bob Y. Sakata
Interviewer: Daryl Maeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-sbob-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

DM: And Sakata Farms is really one of the most highly praised agricultural businesses in Colorado, and maybe even in the United States. So can you tell me how you built it up from this, what is it, a forty-acre farm to what it is today?

BS: There was one thing that I've learned as a youngster, that if you stay in one area all your life, sometimes you miss the opportunities that are around you, and I learned this by reading a book. And when I came here to Colorado, I could instantly see that Colorado was behind fifty years in agriculture compared to what my dad was doing in California. So I was able to see all the opportunities that was there in agriculture. Nobody except for a small area in Colorado ever thought that Colorado could be a prime vegetable-producing area, and this is where our family concentrated. And so Sakata Farms is here today to where it's at not only because of Joanne and I, but also we've got to remember that we started here with my late brother Harry and my two sisters who were twins, and my father. So it was really a family effort on that forty-acre farm. And we instantly grew. In fact, talking about Mr. Schluter, where he said, "Pay us back anytime you can," we paid him back in the second year. And his comment to my late brother Harry was, "Which bank did you rob?" [Laughs]

But so we... and things continuously changed. I would have to say that the vision... well from there, many things changed. One of the big setbacks on the farm was where my late brother Harry passed away at a young age of thirty-five, and everything fell on my shoulder. Then naturally my two sisters were marrying well and left. So then my father passed away in a terrible auto accident that, where I was driving the automobile, and that was disastrous. That was one of the toughest things for me to bear. Then during that time, as we were getting ahead, I remember my father giving me so much wisdom. And when we started the farm and work, he became a little worried, and he called me in one winter day in the pot-bellied stove, and he said, "Yoshiharu, I want to talk to you." And in Japanese I asked him, I said, "Gee, what happened, Dad? What did I do wrong?" He said, "That's what I wanted to talk to you about." He said, "Everything you do, you do right. Everything you do you do right, and you work hard. And not only that whatever you do you do right," he said, "everything you touch turns to gold." So he said, "I'm worried about you," and he said, "I want to let you know that the real true test of a man is that someday he may fall. And when you fall, the true test of a man is to be able to bring yourself up." And I remembered those words. And it was soon after those words where I was driving and was involved in an accident and my father was killed, and I was survived. Then I got involved in this explosion in the shop and I was burnt and in the hospital for over a year. So those little things that Dad had the wisdom of explaining to me, his thinking, had a lot to do with where I'm at today.

DM: So you really credit the Issei generation's way of raising you.

BS: Oh, yes, yes. And the one thing that I hope that, people that listen to this, I hope that there is one thing that my father did that I think we lack today. Is, you know, my mother passed away when I was six years old, so Dad had to raise the whole family by himself. And he was so busy trying to, just working so hard to put food on the table, so he would always lecture to us at the dinner table. He didn't have any other time to do this. And the one thing that still rings in my mind which I passed on to my children is he, he would discipline us by a plain, simple lecture: "Don't you kids ever do anything that would shame the Sakata name." And you know, that tells it all, that tells it all. And it really struck me when I read Colin Powell's book. And in his book, in his book, he said that he will not want to run for the President of the United States. But if he did, what he would like to do is restore, restore shame back into our society. And so I hope whoever listens to this would pass that on, because that's the thing that I'm most concerned about, is the weakening of, the weakening of the... weakening of... oh, my words all got locked. [Laughs] The weakening of, really, the moralities and so forth in our society. Like to bring that back.

DM: Because you can't have a sense of shame unless you have a very clear sense of right versus wrong.

BS: Right, right.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.