Legend In The Fresh Produce Industry Passes Away

Legend In The Fresh Produce Industry Passes Away

George Tanimura Photo courtesy of Tanimura & Antle

George Tanimura
Photo courtesy of Tanimura & Antle

The patriarch of the Tanimura family, George Tanimura, passed away at his home in Salinas, CA, April 15. He was 100.

A legend in the fresh produce industry, George experienced what most people never will: He left a World War II internment camp to work with the Antle family to build a giant lettuce operation — Tanimura & Antle.


In 2011, I had the privilege of speaking with George Tanimura, and one of the things we discussed was the path filled with hardships he had to navigate in his early years. Specifically, George had to deal with the passing of both his mother and father by the time he was 20. He then cared for his 12 siblings.

“There were really tough times in the ‘20s and ‘30s,” he said. “You had to make a choice: school or eat.”

He also mentioned some of the industry advancements that made a difference in production agriculture over the years. Some of the biggest developments he highlighted were vacuum cooling, drip irrigation, and harvesting mechanization, particularly for lettuce.

Paying tribute to the patriarch two years ago, Tanimura & Antle introduced a new lettuce variety, George T’s Special Colossal Romaine Heart. The variety combines two of George’s favorite lettuces, iceberg and Romaine hearts. According to the company, the variety was bred to be a true heart lettuce variety, requiring far fewer leaves to be trimmed at harvest and leaving less waste in the field.

Waste was a concept George didn’t want to entertain. In fact, when I spoke to him, he was experimenting with putting in a single drip irrigation line at one farm. Typically, he said two lines are used, but he wanted to try to cut costs and still get the same yield.

George also mentioned that an organization is only as good as its employees. “I never realized that a poor farm boy could make a few bucks,” he said. “You can’t do it yourself, though. You have to have help and you have to have good help. And we had some good help. Going back many years, there were guys who really worked hard for us, and we can’t forget those people.”

George Tanimura won’t be forgotten, either. His passion for the industry will live on as the fourth generation of Tanimuras are now employed on the farm, working toward the goal of always striving to produce the best.

Memorial donations can be made the Tanimura Family Foundation, P.O. Box 4070, Salinas, CA 93912.