Raising Flowers and Building Community
“Growing flowers is like raising children. You have to feed them, take care of them, and help them grow,” was the counsel that Jim Tashiro received from his father, Morinaga, when Jim joined his parents' nursery business in 1983. Jim had just graduated from UC Berkeley where he majored in political science and economics. Throughout his college years, his plan was to get an MBA and then go into business. But when he graduated, his parents’ nursery and other flower businesses in the Salinas Valley were thriving, and several of friends were returning to Salinas to go into horticulture, so he decided to rest his fate on his (hopefully) green thumb.
Morinaga established Tashiro Nursery in 1971. He was a refugee from Kagoshima, Japan who immigrated to the United States in 1955. He established a gardening business in 1959, and in the following year, his brother in Japan arranged for him to marry a “picture bride.” The marriage was official before Kumi arrived in California to meet Morinaga for the first time. Lucky for Morinaga, Kumi is a wonderful partner, mother, and a hard worker. At 75 years of age, she still works at the nursery alongside the hired hands, planting, cutting and bunching the flowers.
“This is a very tough business, and it is getting tougher. In the 1980s there were over 60 flower growers in the Salinas valley. Now there are only about 15,” Jim explained. The nursery survived some difficult times and it is still recovering from a devastating year in 2009. “The month of January 2011 was the best we've had in ten years, but you don't know what tomorrow will bring. You have to be a bit of a gambler and take calculated risks.” According to Jim, increased competition has put a lot of pressure on flower prices. Nevertheless, Jim is going to stick to his guns on price. “I have a lot of pride in the quality of our product. Many of the people who walk away looking for a better price come back to us to enjoy our beautiful, long lasting flowers.”
Being an active contributor to local organizations is very important to Jim, who serves on several boards. “I didn't think much about the importance of community until I moved back home and heard the personal stories of people who lived in the Japanese internment camps. That really opened up my mind. I gained a sense of appreciation for particularly older people in our community who had gone through a lot in life and paved the way for others.” When Jim was a boy, his dad was electrocuted and was in the hospital for seven weeks. “The other flower growers in the valley organized shifts to keep the nursery going while my father couldn't work. It was incredible. My feeling is, you can't make it in the world by yourself. You need family, friends, people you work with…that's what it's all about.”
Market Profile: more about the M. Tashiro Nursery>
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