By Emi Suzuki
My name is Emi (Nomura Sumida) Suzuki; I represent the fourth generation of Sumidas to manage Sumida Farm. My parents, both born and raised in ‘Aiea, always wanted me to have a deep connection and feeling of “home” in Hawai’i and at the farm. They were college professors and I grew up on the mainland, living in several different college towns. However, every summer and for a couple very influential semesters of elementary school, I lived on the farm.
One of my first memories of the farm was waking up at 2AM, wide awake from jet lag, to turn on the TV and watch infomercials until 4AM when the first morning cartoons would come on. While most of Hawai'i was sleeping at 2AM (including my exhausted sleep deprived parents!), I would hear the beginning of the farm's morning routine. From my Uncle Dave starting the farm forklift and loading the first delivery of watercress into the farm's open bed truck, to the roosters starting to squawk, our field workers arriving and filling up the water cooler with ice, whistling to themselves as they prepared to start their day. These childhood memories are filled with the sounds of the beginning of a new day and a feeling that I wasn't alone and was in good company during those early hours. Even as a child, I wanted to be a part of this dedicated team of people working so hard while the world was still fast asleep.
Once the sun rose, that was my ticket to leave the farm house to play. As an only child, my Hawai'i cousins were the closest thing I had to siblings growing up. We spent those long summer days exploring the farm, pretending we were everything from mermaids on a deserted island with the farm’s grass shack to Power Rangers fighting to save the world in the green jungle of our farm’s secret hideaway spots. I always knew how special the farm was and had a great sense of pride knowing I was connected to this beautiful green patch in ‘Aiea.
As we got older, each of my cousins grew into talented adults and pursued their own passions and goals outside of the farm. With all of the cousins pursuing goals outside of Sumida Farm, the future farm management was very uncertain. After my husband, Kyle, and I had our first child, I couldn’t imagine our children growing up without having their own memories and connection to the farm. I couldn’t live with the farm going away, after 90+ years, with my generation. It was this sentiment that led Kyle and I to raise our hand and step up to manage the farm.
Since taking over management in early 2020 we have dealt with everything from unexpected sickness and deaths, a global pandemic, new and changing regulations, broken machinery, aging infrastructure and more. Despite the challenges of these past two years, watching our daughters create their own memories with their cousins on the farm brings me back to the reason why we chose this path. For our family, it is a privilege to honor past generations by continuing their legacy through our work on the farm for the community and for future generations.
Another special childhood memory of mine were all of the family parties my parents would host on the farm. I love that the farm can represent all of our passions for food and bringing people together through a shared meal with watercress always served as the best anchor to any potluck dish -- from somen salad, to watercress tempura, to a simple green bed that fresh caught ahi would lay on.
My mom’s sushi was the best and most popular dish at these parties. The sushi recipe, which comes from her mom, my Grandma Leatrice Nomura, is typical Hawai’i style with scary amounts of sugar to balance the acid of the rice vinegar and peppery spice of the fresh watercress. My mom would roll and cut sushi for hours--sometimes throughout the party if she got a late start--and everyone would go home with a couple rolls for lunch the next day. Our daughters love her sushi, too, and enjoy helping her make it for parties (although sometimes they eat more than they roll!). I hope you enjoy this recipe with your family as much as we do!
Thank you for following along on our journey; your support and kindness throughout the past year fuels us and reminds us we are not alone in our passion for continuing Sumida Farm for another generation and beyond!
1 cup sugar
4 tsp. salt
- 2/3 cup rice vinegar [Chikyu-Uma (White Horse) brand]
Mix well all ingredients or shake in a jar.
Cook five cups of rice and pour about ¾ cup of sushi sauce (or to taste) over the cooked rice. Cool the rice with a fan while stirring the rice lightly.
- 5 cups sushi rice (see above)
- 2 cans tuna (we love the brand Coral Tuna)
- Sugar (to taste)
- Shoyu (to taste)
- 1/4 bunch Sumida Farm watercress
- 1-2 sheets nori
For the maki sushi filling: open and drain two cans of Coral Tuna packed in oil. Fry the tuna adding sugar and shoyu to taste. I like mine sweeter, so I add more sugar. Fry until it is still moist but most of liquid has been cooked out. Cut and sliver the takuan into strips and cut Sumida Farm watercress into pieces that will fit the sushi roll lengthwise. Place the fried tuna, takuan strips, and watercress lengthwise on the rice sitting on the nori seaweed and roll the sushi. Cut the rolls into about eight pieces. Scale up as needed, Grandma Nomura was known to make 100 rolls for every party!