Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Tsugawa Interview
Narrator: George Tsugawa
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Woodland, Washington
Date: December 19, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-tgeorge-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

LT: So eventually, from those six hoes that you had, your farm grew. Can you talk about what you did to bring that about?

GT: Gosh. I wished I did know. How did we ever get... it was only four hoes by the way, too, and not six. [Laughs] And at the time, when we started there north of Beaverton, when the brothers came back, we farmed with horses. This fellow that we rented the land from, he had a horse, and that's what he farmed with. That's what, quite a bit was done by horses. That's how far this goes back. And he made a deal with us that he rented his horse to us per day. That poor horse worked night and day. [Laughs] It wasn't quite fair, but he didn't say anything, but that poor horse, he really got worked over. But that horse was so smart, you could be cultivating strawberries, you don't have to do it, you just hang on to the cultivator, and he'd make the turns himself all day long. He turned from one row into another, you don't ever have to guide him, he knows exactly where he's going. And then after a day's work, we'd put him away, feed him something, and that was the equipment we started with. Then as things got better, I remember somebody got the idea... we bought a tractor, don't ask me how we put that together, we did buy a tractor, and it had three hitches behind it. So we took that tractor, pulled three of those cultivators behind the tractor, three guys walking behind instead of walking behind one horse, and we thought we'd really modernize our farming. And we did that for a few years, then, yeah, that's right, we bought a tractor to be able to pull three of those cultivators, a hand cultivator, instead of one horse to pull one cultivator. So we were able to do more acres and really got modernized. Then I guess as times got better we bought a little better equipment, bigger tractors and so forth, and kept getting bigger and bigger. That's how it started.

LT: How large did your farm eventually grow, and how many workers did you hire?

GT: You know, I don't even know how many... we do know that for pickers, we got, like I was telling you, we had to have a lot of pickers. We got so big that it was several hundred acres. And we just could never find enough, so we bussed them all in. And I think we, at one time, at our peak, we had twenty buses. It was an average of about fifty to a bus, and all over Battle Ground, Amboy, Yacolt, all around there. Then up this way, Longview, Kelso, Woodland, Kalama, all those are all put together. And we had several farms rented out in the Battle Ground, Amboy area. We didn't own any except the one in Woodland. That's about what I can tell you there, but that was at the peak of the time, then it started going the other way, started getting smaller and smaller. We had too many acres, and we couldn't manage all of them. We lost a lot of berries by not getting around to them, but we realized we had too many acres, so we kept downsizing.

LT: Well, in 1981, you and your family made another change in your...

GT: Oh, you mean what we're doing now? Yeah, let's see. We were farming pretty good, and my wife was driving around one day and she noticed this one, our present site right now, it was a defunct nursery. It was there for several years, or at least a couple years, seemed like it was on the market, it just sat there and sat there. So she suggested, "Why don't we buy that place?" Then we asked, "What for?" "Well, to start a nursery." But we don't know anything about that. "What's there to know?" she kept saying. But there's a lot to a nursery, my goodness. Her version of a nursery was go have a little shack there, sit around there, and maybe have a few plants and then just wait for the customers to come in. But it just doesn't work that way. I do know that when we first started and she thought this way, there was, I think she sold one geranium, and that was the sale for the whole day. Everybody started realizing this is not the way we're going to make it. So she studied that nursery business, she really put her heart into it. So she left the farm and she went a hundred percent for the nursery, just doing things, buying things, just learning more and more about the nursery. And they kept growing and growing to the size of where it is now. But we were much bigger that one time. Now we're in downsizing the nursery because on account of the last few years have been a recession, no homes are being built, and that's a big part of our business. You landscape these homes, well, there were no homes going up, so it really hurt us. So we had an awful time staying in business. But we're still hanging in there. I give my wife lots of credit for holding that together without getting rid of it or selling or junk it or whatever. That's how it all started, and I have to hand it to her a hundred percent.

LT: It seems that you've made a lot of ventures in different kinds of business and different locations and you were successful. So moving into a new community, you had new neighbors. How did you establish yourself with the community? Because that would seem to be important in gaining customers.

GT: You mean our present location? Yeah, that's a good question, but you just don't grow overnight. We just kept building and building, there was a lot of customers that we made customers out of them.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.