After more than two years of drought, Hickory Farm’s crops have been back on the ground.
“I’m feeling very lucky,” said the farm’s owner, Mike Tanaka, who says he plans to reopen the farm in 2019 with a full harvest of hickory and other woody crops.
“It’s just the right time to come back.”
The farm’s harvest came in below average for the past two years, but that was due to poor soil and moisture.
Now, the farm is in a better position.
“We had a lot of issues that year, but now it’s coming back,” Tanaka said.
“You know, we’re in the season right now.”
Tanaka and his wife, Kim, started the farm nearly two decades ago in a wooded spot in northern California.
The family had lived on the property since the 1960s and had grown its crops by the time the drought hit.
The farm now has more than 8,000 acres of land and is a major source of revenue for the Tanakas, who are also partners in a growing family business.
The Tanakases are still working to rebuild the property and build out a new greenhouse.
“The land was pretty much empty for about a decade,” said Kim Tanaka.
“When we started the house, the house was like a house on wheels.”
In the early 2000s, the Tanaks began buying land for a new property.
“This was a way to buy land that was in a very, very, difficult area,” said Tanaka of the time.
The land was about 40 acres and was in need of a new farm.
The property is now a major hub for the community.
“People come to the farm for a variety of reasons,” Tanakaka said, including family outings, vacations, and the annual Black Friday sale.
The couple started the new farm with their husband, who had just returned from a job in an oil field.
They were ready to start harvesting when they learned that the farm had fallen behind on the land transfer payments.
“A lot of things happened, and we were in a position where we were going to need to sell the farm and start over,” said Lee Tanaka-Hickory, who runs the farm.
“At the time, it was just a dream, but I was able to get through it.”
Lee and Kim Tanakasha are now the owners of the Hickory Ranch, which is a small, family-run business with about 1,000 employees.
The ranch has grown quickly in recent years, and they have more than doubled the number of employees.
They plan to expand the business in the future, as well as other farms in the area.
“Right now we’re really looking at the Hickories,” Lee Tanakash said.
She said the business was in great shape, but there were issues with the land.
“In the last few years we’ve been very, really struggling with the soil, we’ve had to build a greenhouse, we have to dig up the soil to make it more efficient,” she said.
The problem is that the Hickys farm is not on the state’s endangered species list, which means the farm can continue to sell its crops without a permit.
The tanaka farm has been in trouble with the California Department of Fish and Game before.
In 2014, the agency revoked the farm permit and required that it purchase a new one.
But because the farm does not have a current permit, the company was forced to sell off its remaining lands and move into a new, more efficient greenhouse.
A few months later, the department took the property back and declared the Tanas farm a “threatened” one, which prompted the Tanases to file a lawsuit against the agency.
The department’s actions forced the Tanakis to take the land back and re-apply for a permit, but the Tanaka farm still had a permit in place.
“For us, it’s been a very stressful time,” Kim Tanas said.
Kim and Lee Tanackas are now hoping to move into their own new farm when they finish building their greenhouse and expand the operation.
“Now we can do more for our community,” Kim said.
They are still considering how to get back on track financially, but they have made some investments and are planning to reopen their farm in the fall.
“Our whole goal is to be profitable,” Kim added.
Kim said the couple is planning to open their second farm in 2021.
“That’s our goal, to open a second farm, and that’s a goal that we’re very much on board with.”
The Tanaks said they are also exploring expanding their other farm in Santa Barbara County, which they also plan to reopen in 2021, with more staff and a larger greenhouse.