Campus: CSU Fullerton -- May 18, 2005

Gift Honors Memory of Longtime Strawberry Growers and Creates Legacy to Benefit Fullerton Arboretum

When it comes to fresh produce in Southern California, strawberry season is, arguably, one of the most anticipated times of the year. For more than three decades, second-generation Japanese-Americans - or Nisei - Tom and Chiz Miyawaki contributed to this annual bounty as farmers and managers in the strawberry business.

Among the beneficiaries of their hard work are Chiz's brothers Tom and Frank Matsuoka of Culver City and Kingsburg, respectively, and nephew Kurtis Nakagawa of Placentia. In tribute to and in honor of the couple's memory, Nakagawa and his uncles established the Tom and Chiz Miyawaki Legacy Project with a $15,000 gift to the university's Center for Oral and Public History (COPH).

Aimed at promoting the COPH and the Fullerton Arboretum's Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum - currently under construction - the donation, explains Nakagawa, is "to give students the opportunity to be authors, to benefit the university and to educate the public at large about the Japanese-American contributions to Orange County."

A third of the gift was set aside for a scholarship, for awarding to authors of a student-written publication related to the dual themes of Orange County agricultural history and Japanese-American heritage. History graduate students Scott Behen of Long Beach, Susan Brewer of Newport Beach and Susan Shoho of Placentia teamed up for the winning submission, tentatively titled "They Worked the Land: a History of Immigrants and Farmers in Orange County."

According to the trio, "They Worked the Land" will be divided into three general themes. The first chronicles the lives of the first Japanese-American immigrants up through the beginning of World War II, including such topics as how the original wine region of California became the home of orange groves, the effects of U.S. immigration policy and laws on the new immigrants, and the evolving conflict between Japanese-American farmers and organizations like the American Federation of Labor. The second and third parts are dedicated to World War II, with the emphasis on such issues as Japanese-American detention, military service, resistance, resettlement and emigration back to Japan at war's conclusion; and post-war changes in Orange County, its residents and work force, including an oral history with the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura, who, with his brother, oversees their family farming business in Orange County.

The remaining $10,000 will be used to publish the book - scheduled for completion in October 2006 - which will be sold in the museum. All proceeds from the book's sales will benefit the arboretum.

As part of the Fullerton Arboretum's new visitor center, scheduled for completion in the fall, the Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum will spotlight the rich agricultural legacy of Orange County and the Japanese-American community's contributions to that chronicle.

Media Contacts:
Michael Paul Wong, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
(714) 278-2969 or

Gail Matsunaga, Public Affairs
(714) 278-4851 or

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