Palos Verdes and South Bay Japanese Farmers
When land values dictated that Peninsula property could no longer be used for only cattle grazing, George Bixby leased the land to Japanese farmers to cultivate fruits and vegetables. Land was leased for approx. ten dollars an acre, and in the early 1900's, approx. 40 Japanese families were cultivating crops on the Peninsula. The Ishibashi family was one of the first Japanese families to farm the Peninsula. Kumekichi Ishibashi came to San Francisco in 1895, and walked to Los Angeles. He worked as a houseboy for many years, but in 1906 leased his first farm from Bixby in 1906 at the site of the present day Trump National Golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes. In 1910, Kumekichi brought his younger brother, Tomizo, to join him at the farm. The Ishibashi family used to get water once a week for their house, which they built themselves, from a well in the Portuguese Bend area, and this took the better part of a day. The family farmed by the "dry farming" method with no irrigation, and grew beans, cucumbers, peas and tomatoes. Early electricity was obtained by a boat generator, and auto batteries.
1923 Picture of some of the 40 Japanese families cultivating the Palos Verdes Peninsula (courtesy of Palos Verdes Library District)
When World War II began, however, the Japanese families who were farming the Rancho Palos Verdes area were interned for the duration of the war; many were relocated to the internment camp at Manzanar, California. On February 1, 1942, Kumekuchi Ishibashi and his wife Take were taken to a detention camp for Japanese in Bismarck, North Dakota. In July, 1942, Kumekuchi's family including his son Mas, Mas' wife, Miye, along with their son Satoshi, who was seven years old at the time, and Mas' brothers, George and Aki were interned at Poston, Arizona. In a little over one year, Kumekichi was able to reunite with his family in Poston. They then moved to Utah to farm for the duration of the war. Mas' brother, George and Kay, served in the 442nd Regimental Infantry Combat Unit. This unit received more citations than any other outfit [of its size].
Miye Ishibashi sold strawberries on the side of the road and Mas farmed Rancho Palos Verdes for over 50 years, with the exception of the internment years. Their son Satoshi continued working with his father to farm rolling acres of barley and garbanzo beans for many of those years as well. Tomizo, Kumekichi's brother, had four farming sons: Ichiro, James, Tom and Daniel and two daughters, Yukiko and Naomi. James Ishibashi's farm is several miles down the road. His wife sold vegetables at "Annie's stand," serving the community for forty years.
Tom Ishibashi, who farmed on city-owned property next to Torrance Municipal Airport since the early 1960's died a week ago at the age of 82.
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