With management of Sakata Farms in the capable hands of Robert T. Sakata – or “R.T,” as he’s known in the industry – since 2010, Colorado grower/shipper Bob Sakata has more time to do what he loves. As it turns out, what he loves to do is what he’s done for some 70 years: Keeping both a keen eye and a sharp mind focused on the crops his iconic operation grows and ships from the facilities north of Denver.
In fact, the 90-year-old is at work every day, answering the phones with an upbeat, “Sakata Farms.”
Bob has been known to share an opinion or two, as the video “These Hands” so eloquently demonstrated at the 2012 Republican National Convention. In short film clip, Bob spoke directly to President Barack Obama and countered the President’s assertion that business owners don’t build their own enterprises.
“President Obama’s statement that we, as small business, didn’t make it on our own is completely nonsense. My name is Bob Sakata, and my family and my employees built this,” Bob said to a cheering convention.
In 1999 Bob and his wife, Joanna, were inducted into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame, and in 2015 they were inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. The honors are all the more meaningful when one considers Bob’s start in farming.
He was born in northern California to parents who had come to the United States from Japan, and Bob and his family – and 127,000 other Japanese Americans — were moved to interment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
The Sakatas were relocated to a camp in Utah, and when the war ended, Bob moved to Colorado, where he started a farm on 40 acres near Brighton. Over the next several decades, the farm grew to 2,400 acres of onions, cabbage, broccoli and sweet corn.
His activism resulted in Bob holding positions on boards and commissions, including president of the National Onion Association and National Sugar Beet Growers Association.
In addition to advising the USDA, he was a member of the Colorado State University Extension Advisory Board. Other civic roles included director for an irrigation ditch company, member of an economic development board, holding a seat on the state’s Food Safety Task Force and serving as a school board president.
Though he modestly calls himself a “glorified consultant” in 2015, he still keeps his finger on the pulse of the onion industry, and he said Sakata Farm stands were looking good in early June.
“We’ve been getting a lot of rain, and it’s hard to get in the fields for other crops. But the onions are all right so far,” he said.