Glenn Hirakata Hirakata Farms Rocky Ford, CO

Member Since 2013

Hirakata Farms: A Century Long Legacy

By Tim Linden H irakata Farms has a legacy in Colorado that dates back more than a century, spans five generations and has survived countless changes in its lifetime. Today, the firm continues to surmount the challenges of being commercially viable in an area that isn’t really that friendly to agricultural production. “We have a lot to deal with in Colorado,” said Glenn Hirakata, who runs the family business along with his cousin Michael Hirakata. “We have to worry about drought and hail. We often have to contend with an early freeze in the fall and a late freeze in the spring. I can’t think of a lot of advantages. Sometimes I wish my great grandpa would have settled somewhere else,” he joked, half seriously But in fact, Tatsunosuke Hirakata settled in Rocky Ford. Co, in 1915 after coming to the United States from Japan a bit earlier to work on the western railroads. Soon after establishing himself in Colorado, the elder Hirakata sent for his son, Keiji, who was still in Japan. The two began farming in the Rocky Ford district, no doubt involved in the production of the namesake Rocky Ford cantaloupe. That cantaloupe traces its lineage to the 1880s. Glenn says it is the warm days and cool nights in the region that give the Rocky Ford cantaloupe its great flavor and a well-deserved 130 year reputation as a superior melon. Glen does allow that the significant temperature swing from night to day is an inherent advantage to producing melons in Rocky Ford. While the Hirakata family traces its roots and farming acumen back to the early years of the 20 th Century, Glenn said the current family farming operation itself began around the early 1950s. He said while the first

two Colorado generations of the Hirakata family were farmers, they did not have the financial resources to amass land holdings. Instead, those early years are a bit sketchy but the Hirakata farmers worked for others or rented land putting together a patchwork of farming operations to make a living. During those times, field corn, sugar beets and alfalfa were the main crops in the area, along with cantaloupes.

Glenn and his son, Kyle

8   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019

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