A #DisruptAging Story from Japanese American Mas Matsumoto, 62 years old, farmer and James Beard Award for Writing and Literature Nominee, on change.

Resilience

“We’ve wrapped up the stone fruit harvest, the peaches and the nectarines. I’m prepping the ground, doing that kind of maintenance work. It’s a summer pruning/early fall pruning on the trees where I go back and shape them, and tag branches that need to be removed. My goal is to touch every tree that we have. And we have about maybe 3,000 trees. It’s a really tedious time, but I really like this time of the year to shape the tree and start looking into the future with each tree.

“The main thing is that you look at the health of the tree, and start interpreting the health of the tree. If it’s not healthy, is it a single tree issue or if it’s part of a field. So it’s a balance between looking at the specific and looking at the larger context. We’re going through global warming, and global warming implies a lot of abnormal weather. We have a lot of swings in weather, especially very hot hot spells, very dry dry spells that we’ve been going through in California, and what effect does this have on the orchard, and how are they responding, and in turn, how do I respond to that.

“In some cases we have wonderfully old, old trees, peaches that are 50 years old, which is unheard of in the industry. Most trees have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, and usually a new variety has taken the place of the old one. But we love working with these older trees, because I think the flavor shifts after it’s been established, and the roots have been planted in the ground established for 10 to 20 years. And the flavor shifts around that 20th year. Extraordinary flavors start to evolve.

“They become richer. And deeper flavored. And I think because the tree’s established, it is able to tolerate, withstand these swings in weather patterns. It’s mature. I like to think it’s the same as people and myself. As I get older I’m a little mature and can tolerate swings and rapid shifts and the changes around me.”

Mas Matsumoto, 62
Farmer and James Beard Award for Writing and Literature Nominee
Japanese American
Del Rey, California

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Sarahlynn Pablo