Inaba Produce Farms
Producers: The Inaba family
Located in: Wapato, Wash.
Supplying PCC since: 1990
Supplies PCC with: Delicious, organically grown asparagus, watermelon and green beans from sunny Eastern Washington.
Sustainable cultivation: The Inabas compost to reduce weed seeds and further enhance their soil. They recycle thousands of tons of waste each year, carrying on a practice Shukichi Inaba employed when he arrived from Japan in 1907.
Three generations in, and going strong
Few produce items better encapsulate spring than tender spears of slender asparagus, green and fresh from the field. And it's tough to find better asparagus than the organic and local harvest from the Inaba Family in the Yakima Valley.
In the month of May, PCC shoppers buy more asparagus — organic and conventional — than any other produce item except bananas. Much of that asparagus comes from Inaba Produce Farms in Wapato, Wash. As the season goes on, PCC shoppers also will see the Inaba label on green beans, watermelons, and more.
At 1,200 acres, it's a big spread. Yet, it's a good example of how environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices are commercially viable values in food production, even on a large scale.
The Inabas conserve water with drip irrigation systems. They use composting and cover crops to improve soil health. They've diversified the crop mix to extend the growing season to provide a longer term of steady employment for workers. They are one of the few places that provide housing for their seasonal employees. "People are amazed at how nice it is," says Lon Inaba, the Operations Manager.
Inaba Produce is a third generation family farm dug into the rich volcanic soil of the Yakima Valley. Many of the sustainable farming practices used today were started in 1907 when Shukichi Inaba and his brother came from Japan, cleared the land of sagebrush and with techniques learned in Japan, began cultivating crops.
Shukichi's son, Ken, eventually took over the farm and now Ken's three sons, Lon, Wayne, and Norm manage it along with their Mom, Shiz.
Lon says his Dad put him and his brothers through Washington State University and didn't expect them to come back, but they did, one by one. Wayne had studied accounting and he came home to do the marketing in 1980.
"I came home in '82 on a six-month leave from a job at Battelle Northwest Labs (a research and development company)," says Lon, "I did more engineering in three weeks on the farm — building, irrigation, and composting — than I did at Battelle!"
He never went back. Then Norm came home with a degree in economics and computer science — perfect for payroll. A sister's husband is the main mechanic.
Lon says he and his brothers fought like cats and dogs in the beginning, but they all pulled for the same purpose and they learned from each other, which makes it such a strong family operation today.
"If you're going to make it as a farmer, you have to do more than just be a farmer. Each segment has a chunk. Mom's still around, too" says Lon. "She's been telling us what to do for 40 years," he laughs. "She keeps us in line. She's the bookkeeper and wields a firm hand in not spending too much and keeping our costs under control."
It's a good feeling, he says, to be your own boss and really have a feeling of accomplishment.
By Trudy Bialic, Sound Consumer, May 2002. Updated February 2010.
- Agua Fresca Cooler
- Asparagus and Prosciutto Salad with Pistachio Vinaigrette
- Asparagus Filling
- Asparagus Sautéed with Mango and Capers
- Asparagus with Cheese
- Asparagus with Confetti
- Asparagus with Edamame and Shiitakes
- Asparagus with Roasted Piquillo Peppers, Basil and Port Madison Chèvre Wrapped in Prosciutto
- Asparagus, Carrot and Hijiki Salad with a Sesame-Mint Dressing
- Asparagus-Pistachio Pesto
- Asperges aux Beurre Noisettes (Asparagus with Brown Butter Sauce and Hazelnuts)
- Bean Salad
- Bulgur Salad with Summer Tomatoes
- Caesar-style Asparagus
- Chicken Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette
- Creamy Asparagus Scrambled Duck Eggs in Egg Cups with Lemon Zest Crème Fraîche
- Creamy, Roasted New Potato Salad with Green Beans, Walnuts and Smoked Salmon
- Ensalada Rusa (Peruvian Mixed Vegetables Salad)
- Fire-grilled Caesar Salad with Wild Alaskan Salmon
- First-of-the-season Organic Asparagus with Penne Pasta, Tuscan Style
- Fresh Fettuccine with Asparagus, Red Peppers, Zucchini and Prawns
- Green Bean and Tomato Salad with Fresh Herbs
- Green Bean, Walnut and Chicken Salad
- Green Beans with Balsamic-Shallot Butter
- Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Zest
- Grilled Asparagus with Mango, Olives and Capers: Tapas Style
- Grilled or Broiled Asparagus
- Grilled Pizza Rustica with Grilled Local Vegetables and Arugula
- Ham and Asparagus Salad
- Homemade Thai Green Curry Stir-fried Prawns
- Individual Springtime Omelette Parisienne
- Italian Bean Salad
- Linguine with Spring Green Veggies Primavera
- New Potato and Green Bean Salad in a Spice Blend Vinaigrette
- One-pan Roasted Asparagus and Halibut with Tomato-Lime Butter
- Onion and Asparagus Stir-fry
- Organic Asparagus Strata with Zesty Mediterranean Garnish
- Organic Asparagus with White Beans and Hazelnuts
- Paella Valenciana Mixta
- Pan-roasted Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Brown Butter-Lemon Hazelnuts
- Pasta Primavera
- Pasta with Asparagus & Roasted Red Pepper
- Pasta with Asparagus and Prawns
- Perfect Asparagus
- Phad Gaeng Keow Wan (Green Curry Fried Rice with Asparagus or Peas)
- Phad Prik King (Curried Stir-fried Vegetables with Basil)
- Potato Salad with Green Beans
- Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Wrapped Asparagus
- Quick Asparagus Pasta Meal
- Quinoa and Herbed Potato Loaf with Asparagus-Pistachio Pesto
- Ravioli & Asparagus Salad
- Red Potato and Green Bean Salad
- Roasted Asparagus
- Roasted Asparagus & Red Pepper Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette
- Roasted Asparagus and White Cheddar Béchamel with Hazelnut-crusted Ravioli
- Roasted Asparagus and Wild Halibut Salad with Chèvre and Warm Rhubarb Vinaigrette
- Roasted Spring Asparagus with Crispy Pancetta in Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Rustic Puff Pastry Asparagus Tart with Goat Cheese, Thyme and Prosciutto
- Salad Niçoise
- Salad Niçoise
- Sautéed String Beans with Green Onions and Radishes
- Sesame Roasted Asparagus with Warm Pot Stickers
- Sesame-Rolled Asparagus
- Shaved Asparagus Salad with Radishes
- Simple Summer Pickles
- Sparkling Rosé Melon Cooler with Lavender
- Spring Asparagus Tart
- Spring Asparagus Vichyssoise
- Spring Vegetable Sauté
- String Beans, Caramelized Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Seeds
- Summer Fruit Sorbet with Cherries, Blueberries and Watermelon
- Thai Melon Salad
- Thai Peanut Soba Noodles with Asparagus
- The Rustic Tuscan (pizza)
- Vietnamese Pancakes
- Warm Salad of Roasted Asparagus
- Wasabi Asparagus Dip
- Watermelon Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Pistachios
- Watermelon-Pineapple Popsicles