When Lon Inaba’s grandfather, Shukichi Inaba, emigrated to Washington’s Yakima Valley from Japan in 1907, federal law forbade Japanese immigrants from owning land. So Shukichi leased and cleared 120 acres, on which he farmed wheat, potatoes, and hay. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Shukichi and his family were sent to a Wyoming “relocation” camp. “They had 10 days to dispose of their belongings before they were loaded up on trains and hauled out,” Lon, 61, says. “They could only take what they could carry.”
Nearly a decade after the war ended, Shukichi’s son and Lon’s father, Ken, bought a tract of land in south-central Washington. Shukichi and Ken have both since passed away, though Lon’s mother, Shiz, 87, still works on the farm, along with her five children.
The bustling business covers nearly 1,500 acres. The harvest season begins in spring with asparagus, then cycles through bell peppers, sweet corn, zucchini, squash, and more, all of which is delivered to farmers markets and regional wholesalers. “When you have this kind of history,” says Lon, “no one wants to be the guy that lets the family farm slip away.”