Growers work to keep agriculture traditions

By: Amy Holiday, Special to the Loomis News
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Local growers work to keep county’s agriculture tradition alive In suburbia, it’s often hard to see past the rooflines, the storefronts and facades. It’s difficult to see beyond the grocery store bills and the fast food restaurants. But look a little harder. Look past it all and you’ll see Placer County, a place of diligent farmers, rolling gardens and neighbors who are determined to supplying area families with locally grown, organic products. And the driving force behind keeping local agriculture alive is PlacerGROWN, a nonprofit organization designed to help local farmers market their products. While bridging the gap between customer and producer, PlacerGROWN works to maintain a positive relationship of successful business and satisfied diner. Farmers who wish to join PlacerGROWN pay a minimal membership fee and are instantly part of a network of other local agricultural contributors, enjoying the benefits of business partnerships, friendships and a shared vision to keep local agriculture alive. Chris Otow Kuratomi and her husband Tosh Kuratomi manage Otow Orchards on Eureka Road in Granite Bay and are members of PlacerGROWN. Tosh Kuratomi is the nephew of Flora Takahashi of Loomis. It’s the connections to other ranches, the networking and the contacts within the county agriculture department that make their membership a worthwhile investment. “I feel like the biggest advantage is that the farmers involved in the network look out for each other,” Tosh said. “Instead of every man for himself or trying to get an edge on another competitor, we tend to be much more willing to help out.” Promoting the wholesome network of friendly partnerships instead of neck-and-neck competition is what makes PlacerGROWN integral in the community. And with the astronomical costs that small-scale farms like Otow face, a positive support network is crucial. “We have to pay about $10,000 a year for irrigation,” Tosh said. “We realize that without water, you get no food.” And instead of “walking away from the tradition” of their nearly 100-year old establishment, Otow Orchards invests in PlacerGROWN and depends on network and community to business. And, since their membership with PlacerGROWN sales of their tomatoes, peaches, persimmons and other delights have sky rocketed. Otow is one of the hundreds of local establishments that are part of the PlacerGROWN market. The labors of the other producers are evident in grocery stores, community produce fairs and in many cases, on your dinner plates. “PlacerGROWN helps us be a better neighbor and friend,” Tosh said. “It’s our commitment to seeing agriculture survive in Placer County. We’ll lose the local treasure by not supporting it.” In Loomis, fruit and produce from Otow Orchards is available exclusively at Blue Goose Produce.