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-01-0020

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DM: Well, I do want to hear a little bit more about Sakata Farms today, and maybe some of the transitions that it underwent.

BS: Yeah, right, that's right. First, let me tell you this: that all the decisions that Joanne and I made when we got started, and all the things that we saw changing, and all the things we did, we did right. We did right. And there's one thing that I do have as far as my own philosophy is concerned, is that you have to be a visionary and see the changes, but you can't just see it, you gotta be a doer. And I've always maintained that, that you cannot be a trend-follower, you gotta be a trend-maker, and that's what we did up to this point. Now, when I go back and tell you the changes we made, let me tell you today, that if my son, who has taken over the company, if he asks me today, "Dad, what's the vision? What do you see?" Why, I don't know. I wouldn't be able to give him the vision that I think he needs. I, I would answer, I would answer that question that, "You're smart enough to figure it out, you do it." But in my days, when we got started, it was very easy to see the trend. The trend naturally was efficiency and increased production. And you could see the consumer side change where we always go to a farmer's market, and the farmer's market was disappearing. Where the big purchasers became chain stores. So what did that do? That, that forced you to, to expand so you could attract the chain store, the big purchasers.

DM: Let me interrupt you for just a second, if I may. What did you start out growing on that first forty-acre farm?

BS: Oh, on the first forty-acre farm, we tried to grow everything you could think of to follow Dad's footsteps, and we were able to do it. But we did find out from the, some of the old-timers that there is such a thing called hail here in Colorado, so you better have, always grow some sugar beets. And so out of the forty-acre farm, we grew ten acres of sugar beets, and the rest were in vegetables. But we quickly recognized, Daryl, that growing vegetables in Colorado, you could not grow high input crops. In other words, like pole tomatoes, celery, where you have to wrap every one to bleach it. You could not afford to grow high input crops and vegetables because in five minutes, a hailstorm could ruin it. So you had to, number one, pick out a crop that would fit the climate in Colorado and that takes the least input to grow it. Because once you grow it, then all the input would be in harvesting. So that's how, that's how we have our four major crops we grow today in vegetables, are sweet corn, onions, cabbage, and broccoli, those are the four. Of course, we grow beans, beans, winter wheat, and ethanol corn and alfalfa for rotation. But that's where we're at today.

DM: So you mentioned that one of the trends was that you had to, to grow more crops.

BS: Correct.

DM: Or to produce more crops, I mean.

BS: Right. You, you had to... let me put it this way. Okay, I learned a long time ago that there was about four criteria you had to meet. Number one, you had to have the best quality, or you could not open the doors of the major buyers. And no matter how good of a quality you had, once you opened the door to the major buyers, you had to have continuity of supply, that's very important. 'Cause you could have the best product you could have today, but if you didn't have it tomorrow, then, "We'll find it somewhere else." So quality, continuity of supplies, and service. And the very last thing, that I've trained our sales staff. That you have quality, continuity of supply, service, and you gotta be competitive in price. Just because you have all that, you can't, you can't think that you could overcharge.

DM: How many farm -- or excuse me, how many acres do you have under cultivation now?

BS: Little over three thousand acres.

DM: All from that forty-acre farm.

BS: Yes. And the other thing that we've learned, which I'm blessed with today, was in order to attract the major chain stores, why, you had to have control, they knew. And the only way you could have control is to own your real estate, own your own farm. So every time there was an equity, my poor wife Joanna sacrificed a new couch or a new stove, but we went in debt and purchased more farm every year. That's how we accumulated.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.