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EPITAPH FOR A PEACH by David Mas Masumoto

EPITAPH FOR A PEACH

Four Seasons on My Family Farm

By David Mas Masumoto

Pub Date: June 16th, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-251024-X

 In this lovingly rendered account, the author describes his efforts to maintain his unique organic farm and to find a market for his juicy but unpopular fruit. Sun Crest peaches may be the tastiest, most luscious grown in the San Joaquin Valley, but their fragility and unappealing color severely reduce their marketability. Mas Masumoto's father planted 1,500 of the trees on a 15-acre section of the farm 20 years ago. Only 350 of them remain. The son faces a tough decision: call in the bulldozers and replant with something more saleable, or give it another year, hoping the rest of the farm can support his weakness for the delectable Sun Crest peach. He chooses the latter and breaks ``the spring earth with a new resolve to redeem not only one block of peaches but my chosen life as a farmer.'' Indeed, neighboring farmers--and his father--are skeptical when he begins to phase out herbicides and pesticides and starts planting wildflowers and cover crops such as clover and vetch. His pregnant wife wants to walk the fields with the new baby, ``breathing in the fresh scent.'' He allows some ``natural grasses'' (a.k.a. weeds) to grow in his orchards and vineyards as part of the ``natural system at work''; sterilized fields do not, he contends, produce juicy grapes or succulent peaches. He records his day-to-day chores and his battles with oriental fruit moths, peach twig borers (worms), the weather. He thins and prunes like a bonsai artist, like a sculptor ``freeing the soul of a tree.'' He does call in the bulldozers to eliminate a small orchard of ``obsolete'' Red Top peaches, but his prized Sun Crest variety remains and thrives: He harvests 80 tons. A few will go to specialty markets; the rest will be shipped to an organic baby-food company, bringing Mas Masumoto full circle and affording him ``a wonderful sense of fulfillment.'' Earthy, gentle, and sensuous. Mas Masumoto has a nice touch and charming perspective.