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Ken Tatami

Ken Tatami doesn’t make his living solely off his small family farm of plums, nectarines and peaches, but he is extremely prideful of his farming operation. “I was born and raised on this farm,” Tatami said. “It is a legacy I want to maintain. Agriculture is a way of life, and it is something that I want to keep within the family.”

Tatami is a third generation farmer from the Reedley/Parlier area, where his grandparents settled when they emigrated from Japan. His father, after a brief stay in Idaho, was a member of the U.S. Army, when he met his mother, a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor. They settled in Reedley in the 1950s with the vision of starting a family farm on 80 acres.

Growing up, the family grew raisin grapes, juice/wine grapes, table grapes, tree fruits and strawberries. “We grew, packed and shipped the fruit ourselves,” Tatami said. Tatami’s father was able to build a cold storage on-site, so they could do everything themselves. Tatami remembers the days when he could roll out of bed, walk 200 feet and start his long-day’s work.

I grew up around farming,” he said. “My father was able to raise four children on 80 acres.” Looking back, Tatami is impressed with his father’s resourcefulness and commitment to progressive farming.

Tatami’s daughter, Ashley, 11, is the third generation to attend Riverview Elementary School, just down the road from his farm. He is thankful to have his farmland where he can take Ashley to appreciate the rural setting.

Tatami has been married to his wife, Mary, for 18 years. Mary also came from an agricultural background, growing up on a family dairy in Dos Palos. Both are involved in agriculture financing. Tatami has been in agriculture lending for 24 years and currently works for the Dinuba-based Farm Credit West, and Mary works for an agricultural lender at Fresno-Madera Farm Credit.

Agriculture is not for me… or is it?

Despite growing up on the family farm, Tatami had no real intentions of pursuing a career in agriculture. In fact, after he graduated from Reedley High School in 1977, he went to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo as a computer science major.

After one year, Tatami didn’t feel computer science was the right career choice for him and switched his major to agricultural business.  He graduated from Cal Poly with a Bachelor’s degree in 1982 and hasn’t looked back since. Years later, he has become a true professional in the industry and is enjoying agriculture’s way of life.

I have absolutely no regrets.”

Involvement with Farm Bureau

Tatami has been on the FCFB Board of Directors for seven years and currently serves as the secretary/treasurer. In the past, he has served as chair of both the Kingsburg and Reedley Centers.

As chairman of FCFB’s Agriculture Education Committee, Tatami’s goal is to develop and implement as many programs as he can to assist all age groups in agricultural education.

Tatami is co-founder and chairman of the Future Advocates of Agriculture Concerned about Tomorrow (FACT) leadership development program that educates a diverse group of adult-aged individuals about agricultural issues. He worked with FCFB Past President Debbie Jacobsen and former Executive Director Karla Kay Edwards to develop the program six years ago.

Tatami also was instrumental in helping to jumpstart FCFB’s Farm and Nutrition Day, serving as event co-chairman. The event provides third grade students and teachers from Fresno County with the opportunity to become familiar with food, fiber and animal production, meeting one-on-one with farmers and ranchers, resource managers, and food and agricultural industry representatives.

It’s important to start ag education with kids, and to help them understand where their food comes from,” Tatami said. In addition to educating younger students, he feels it is equally as important to continue that education as they get older. “In many cases, decisions that affect the industry can be made by those that aren’t well informed on agriculture issues.”

Tatami has a great understanding of the industry. “Growing up here [Reedley], I have gained a great appreciation for everything: productive farming, high capital and the risk involved with farming. I have a great appreciation for the many people who are able to succeed in this industry.”

Tatami’s father was one of the original members of the Nisei Farmers League and a former FCFB member, which helped him gain knowledge of agricultural issues growing up.

As an industry leader, he knows the struggles of farming. “Land ownership fuels the perception of the big ‘rich’ farmer. As an agricultural lender, I understand that a great percentage of farmers struggle.

It is not always easy to sleep when 100 percent of your income derives from a 60 to 90-day window. We are very dependant on the weather, water supply and labor. Without one of those three components, the farmer may lose money that given year.”

Tatami believes that agriculture is a way of life, but it also needs to be nurtured as a business. “Agriculture needs to survive here because we need to maintain a domestic food supply. We can not let it go offshore.”

In addition to his involvement with the Farm Bureau, Tatami is a graduate of CFBF’s Ag Leadership Program, Class II. Through this leadership program, he learned important techniques to lobbying and gained exposure to federal and state legislators. He also sits on the Board of Directors for the San Joaquin Political Academy.

Passion for volleyball, teaching

Even with all of the activities he packs into a 24-hour day, Tatami is more than an agricultural lender and farmer; he is a mentor and coach. He coaches volleyball five days a week in the fall at Reedley High School.

For 18 years, he has coached volleyball for local kids in the Reedley area. He coached club volleyball for 13 years, and has coached Reedley High School Junior Varsity for the last five years.

Coaching volleyball is my time to relieve stress,” Tatami said. “I enjoy teaching the kids how to respect and love the sport. Teaching them not to take it so serious, but show them how to obtain a certain level of excellence.”

In his 18 years of coaching, his excitement for volleyball has never wavered. He is especially excited for his daughter, Ashley, who has expressed her interest in learning the game of volleyball. Tatami can’t wait to teach her.

 

Meet Your Board Member Profile: Ag Today, Feb 07
By: John Migliazzo