History of Orange County Produce, LLC
A.G. and Matthew Kawamura are third generation growers and shippers of fresh produce who farm along and within the urban boundaries of Orange County, California. Their company, Orange County Produce, LLC engages in year around production and marketing of fruits and vegetables. They have also worked creatively to resolve hunger and nutrition problems in their community and to educate the public about the art and science of farming and the challenges facing our food systems.
A.G. and Matt’s grandparents came to California from Japan around the turn of the century and became involved in agriculture, doing everything from picking and packing oranges to sharecropping before starting a small fertilizer and farm supply company. During WWII, their families were relocated to an internment camp in Arizona. They remained there after the war for a short time and began the Western Marketing Company, growing and shipping fresh produce - lettuce, cabbage, celery and cantaloupes. By the end of the fifties Western Marketing Company had operations in three regions: Glendale, Arizona; San Diego, Ca. and Compton, Ca.
It was their father who decided to consolidate the operations and bring the family to Orange County in 1958. At that time, Orange County was still a very rural community where farmers grew oranges, walnuts, tomatoes, lima beans, asparagus, some strawberries and other vegetable and horticulture crops. By the end of the 1970’s, as Orange County became increasingly urbanized, many of the growers had sold their land and moved on. High costs of production and skyrocketing real estate prices made it financially prohibitive to grow many of the traditional crops in a competitive market. Those growers that remained were leasing most of their land from large landowners (The Irvine Company, Baker and O’Neal Ranches) and from the various military bases around the county. The main fresh produce crops that have survived are strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, and green beans.
Many people originally moved to Orange County because of its rural character. For the Kawamura family the goal is still the same. In 1994, they changed their company name to Orange County Produce because of their belief that Orange County still wants to participate in its agricultural heritage. They believe in a “food shed” where the local production of fruits and vegetables is a viable and important part of what the residents of the county want and need. Domestic food security is more than a national movement…It is the common sense philosophy that food produced and consumed locally has multiple benefits for society, the economy and the environment. They are proud that their 53 years of farming activities in OC reflect and embrace their understanding of sustainability and community. It is their goal and vision to continue to be a primary source of nutritious, seasonal produce for the residents of Southern California.