Densho Digital Archive
Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL Collection
Title: Tom I. Mine Interview
Narrator: Tom I. Mine
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: July 29, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-mtom_2-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And so as a farmer, would you try to do things to time your crops to figure out when --

TM: Well, yeah. But then you gotta get bigger. As time go on, I was luckily just happened to get one piece, and then the next neighbor, he sold out or he quit because he couldn't make it. So I was, I was real fortunate in that way that I was able to lease their property and later buy it and continue. And I would say I was very lucky. And then I was with a great, good firm, but the firm is, I grew for is Bud Antle. The firm's still operating, it's under Tanemura and Antle.

TI: So that's the T&A.

TM: T&A.

TI: So how does that work? So when you work for, like, so you work with this company, so they agreed to buy all your...

TM: Yeah, they buy and pack, or... so the companies I grew for, they stressed good product. So they were smart, Mr. Antle, he'll get a hold of the best Japanese growers, we were all Niseis at that time, because the Isseis were, faded out. So he's sure that we grew the best products, so that way he believed in top label products, so we were lucky in that way, he was able to ship all top-grade product. You know, we made money over the other growers.

TI: And how many other Nisei, or other Japanese American farmers did he work with?

TM: Oh, I think he had about five or six.

TI: So you were significant.

TM: I was one of them.

TI: One of them. And who would he sell to? Who would buy his...

TM: Well, all the bigger farms back east. You know, they ship everything by rail or trucks. Not local -- yeah, it was local, too, but the major... because he got big enough taking over all us Nisei growers that he was, at peak days, he would ship a hundred cars of lettuce a day. That's how much produce he managed to...

TI: And then he would just pay you...

TM: Yeah, whatever, yeah.

TI: ...essentially, the market prices. So there was something that was...

TM: It fluctuated all the time.

TI: And he would just pay you that.

TM: But you would always know that whatever you grew, the quality stuff, he would buy from you.

TM: Oh, yeah, yeah.

TI: So you wouldn't have to worry about...

TM: We don't have to worry, just do your best in growing the, trying to grow the best lettuce or cauliflower or celery, always.

TI: And so by working with him, did that encourage you, then, to keep adding more and more land because you knew you could keep doing that?

TM: Yeah. And more land or, you know, land is hard to get. And I was fortunate to get small blocks here or there, fifteen acres there, twenty acres there. So that way, the more property you had, there was a chance of making a little bit more or you get lucky. It's like playing a slot machine, you get lucky, hot or... but that's how produce business was, just like today or anytime.

TI: Now so you mentioned, like, about five or six Nisei farmers worked with T&A. What did the other Nisei farmers do? Did they have other companies or did they do their own?

TM: Well, there were other, but there weren't too many Nisei farmers left. They got out because it was too tough.

TI: And so when they started getting out, is that when you and others would maybe buy more land, because they quit farming?

TM: Yeah, we'd buy theirs or lease theirs if they weren't the owners. They held onto the property because you were able to get pretty good rental.

TI: Now with T&A, did they ever change farmers? Like if a Nisei farmer disappointed them, would they kind of quit working with them or anything like that? Was that hard, or was it pretty stable in terms of relationships?

TM: Yeah, I think the Nisei, they did real well. They, they watched the other Nisei growers trying to do their best and trying to keep up with them. Otherwise, you get off to the side, and you can't survive. You can't survive, you can't, you gotta get out of the business.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So was it pretty competitive between you and the other...

TM: Well, what do you mean competitive? Well, now, we always try to grow the best. It's competitive, you worked hard to kind of grow the best product.

TI: And so was it, how would you describe the competition? Was it, like, did you know the other Nisei farmers?

TM: Oh, yeah.

TI: And were you guys pretty friendly?

TM: Oh, yeah, nothing...

TI: Now, were there ever cases where you would help another Nisei farmer or they would help you because of something?

TM: Well, it's, there's one case I had to help my neighbor because the main fellow, he passed away. So with certain type of work, sometimes tractor, we just go over there and let them either have the equipment if it's not in use, they would borrow it. But mainly, they all managed to do well on their own.

TI: But it sounds like if there's an emergency or something, someone would lend equipment or...

TM: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Okay. Well, thank you, that was interesting. I learned much.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.