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Pear Country – Land of Opportunity

Oregon pear grower Randy Kiyokawa says if it weren’t for the drive and tenacity of his Japanese grandfather, he might have been Hawaiian.

“My grandfather left Japan in 1905 with his eyes fixed on the land of opportunity, but he had only enough money to get to Hawaii,” Kiyokawa says. He saved up and took a boat to Sacramento, but then lost work after the San Francisco fire. He landed a job with the railroads, which brought him up the coast to Oregon where he cleared some land. But World War II brought him back to Japan as an interpreter.

“Finally, after the war, he returned to Oregon on the GI Bill and secured the 25-acre plot that is home to our fruit stand today,” he says.

Like his grandfather, the young, bright-eyed Kiyokawa has charted his own course of opportunity, growing Kiyokawa Orchards to 200 acres of strong fruit trees, most devoted to growing Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Forelle and Seckel pears destined for supermarkets, top restaurants, small stores, CSAs and schools, as well as fruit stands and farmers markets from Hood River to Portland .

Showing tenacity much like his grandfather’s, Randy is looking forward to the future of the family orchards, and it’s all about labor.

“I couldn’t farm five acres myself. My employees are the backbone of this operation,” he says of his devoted team of 35, many of whom have been with him for 20+ years. “We’re very familial.”