By Emi Suzuki
Barbara Sumida served as our third generation President and General Manager, and was also the caregiver of our farm animals. Growing up, I would visit the farm and always find a new adopted pet, usually a class pet who needed a home at the end of the school year or an animal who was rescued by some friend and dropped off on the way home from the beach. Sometimes it was a snapping turtle, or a bunny; the worst was a rescued fighting chicken named Fluffy that terrorized us Sumida kids when we saw its thick taloned claws running at us from under the raised homes.
Mr. Turtle, a red footed tortoise, came to the farm many years ago when he was found in a friend’s backyard. My Aunty Barb was a kind and gentle soul who quietly and consistently cared for all those around her, including these rescued animals. She made Mr. Turtle a cozy home under a lychee tree overlooking our fields and would feed him hunks of cactus she grew for him, along with scraps of veggies and fruits from the refrigerator.
Aunty Barb passed away in the beginning of 2020, leaving behind many loved ones who depended on her, including these beloved farm animals.
Lana was the first non-Sumida we hired to help run our front operations. She started in March of 2020 and immediately started helping to fill in with the extra care and nurturing my Aunty Barb used to provide on the farm. While her original job description did not include caring for Mr. Turtle, she quickly started taking on this responsibility and says it is one of her favorite parts of the job!
While Aunty Barb will never be replaced, I know she would be happy and proud to know the farm is continuing to go on and the animals and land continue to be cared for through the hard work and dedication of all of our employees like Lana.
Life can get so busy and move so quickly; but the slow pace of Mr. Turtle, and the sudden passing of my Aunty Barb, have helped my family shift our perspective and try to take time to savor and cherish each moment we are given.