For decades prior to World War II, Los Angeles County’s Palos Verdes Peninsula was home to a thriving Japanese-American agricultural community. Only one such farm remains today, and it isn’t long for this world.
The Ranchos Palos Verdes City Council has voted to terminate the lease on Hatano Farm, a 5.5-acre cactus and flower farm that sits on city-owned land, according to the L.A. Daily News.
The termination stems from an agreement with the federal government in the 1970s that turned the land over to the city. The pact requires that the city convert the property for public recreation. Sensitive to the area’s history — notably, the fact that most of the farms in the area were wiped out when the families that ran them were sent to internment camps in the 1940s — the city has been slow to enforce the agreement, according to the Daily News.
Prior to World War II, an estimated 200 Japanese-American families operated farms on the peninsula. Many never returned after their release. The City Council’s decision means that the peninsula’s last remaining Japanese-American-founded farm will be no more.
Hatano Farm gets its name from its founder, James Hatano, who was not a farmer on the peninsula before the war. Instead, he arrived after the war, during which he served in the U.S. Army.
The land was originally owned by the Army, but was transferred to the new town of Rancho Palos Verdes in the 1970s as part of a wider government program to offload land to local municipalities.
The city wanted to keep Hatano Farm in operation, so it put off forcing out Hatano, who died in 2015.
The situation became more complicated when Hatano wanted to retire in the 2000s and hand over the farm to his protégé, Martin Martinez.
The city agreed to lease the farm to Martinez, but the National Parks Service caught wind of the situation and said it could take the property if the city failed to meet its obligations under the decades-old deal.
The city has yet to decide what to do with the property, but staff have recommended a handful of options, including turning it into a community garden, a native plant and seed nursery, a kitchen-to-garden operation or restoring the land to its natural habitat.
[LADN] — Dennis Lynch