A.G. Kawamura, who served as California's secretary of agriculture, stands amid Solutions Farm at The Nursery by Southwinds, where you can preview what's to come at the Great Park.

The future of farming takes shape

Third-generation farmer showcases urban farming at Great Park

by TOMOYA SHIMURA

The city of Irvine is expected to add a showcase of 21st-century agriculture at the Great Park where visitors will get a glimpse into the future of farming and food.

The 70-acre Full Circle Farm will feature a pavilion, a farmers market, greenhouses, culinary training, a farm-to-table cafe and more, according to a plan submitted to the city.

“A unique part about it is you don’t really see many new parks being built, let alone metropolitan parks that hope to be world-class, that have an agricultural component on them,” said A.G. Kawamura, the man behind this grand plan.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person more qualified for this task than Kawamura.

A third-generation fruit and vegetable grower from Orange County, Kawamura oversaw the world’s fifth-largest agricultural economy as California’s secretary of agriculture from 2003 to 2010.

Now, the 62-year-old is tackling world hunger through his Irvine-based nonprofit, Solutions for Urban Agriculture, which aims to produce food on underused urban land.

At the Great Park, you can preview that concept at Solutions Farm at The Nursery by Southwinds, where Kawamura tests farming methods such as edible landscaping.

“You can start growing your own food instead of growing a horticultural plant that’s good to look at,” Kawamura said. “It’s beneficial for families, especially with children, to learn how difficult it is to produce a predictable food supply, to learn how different things taste when you harvest fresh product right out of your own garden and the pride that comes with that.” 

The early days

When Kawamura moved to Orange County with his parents in 1958, there was no 405 freeway and Disneyland’s Matterhorn was one of the tallest structures around.

His first real job, at age 13, was harvesting honey and selling it at roadside stands.

“I remember the smell of citrus everywhere,” he said. “In Irvine, we used to sit on Sand Canyon road, and you could see horses tied up outside for ranching. It was all agriculture as far as you could see.”

Kawamura’s passion for agriculture got him appointed secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Basically, you try to help enhance the profile of the state’s agricultural food system,” he said. “It was very easy with Gov. Schwarzenegger.” Because the former governor grew up in post-World War II Austria, Kawamura explained, “he really understood what it’s like not to have a lot of food, what it was like to not have reliable energy, reliable roads.”  

Solutions for Urban Agriculture will host its third annual Harvest Moon celebration Sept. 28 at Tanaka Farm in Irvine. To learn more, visit solutionsforurbanag.org.