The Nitta Ranch has been in the Nitta Family since 1918. Choichi (Charles) Nitta was born in Japan in 1887. At age 16 he immigrated to America, the amazing country he learned about in school. He worked hard and saved his money. After hearing about the good farming conditions in Loomis, he moved to the area in 1913. He worked on nearby fruit ranches and eventually found work for an English family who were trying to grow citrus as part of the Placer County Citrus Colony. They discovered the area was rampant with malaria and too cold to grow citrus. Because people of Japanese ancestry were not allowed to purchase property, Choichi bought the ranch in 1918 through an intermediary. He pulled out the citrus, planted peaches, pears and plums and began making a home for himself. Friends in Japan arranged a marriage for him. The marriage was performed by proxy before the couple had even met. Choichi had only seen a photo of his bride, Tane, when he met her at the dock. Using horse and oxen, Choichi, Tane and their four children farmed successfully for many years. The hot days and cool nights of the Sierra foothills were perfect for producing sweet and highly flavorful stone fruit.
World War ll started and all the Japanese families were sent away to internment camps. When the Nitta family returned, the house was still standing, but many of the trees had died and all the equipment had been stolen. It took 5 years of hard work to get the ranch back to its pre-war condition.
In 1961, Choichi’s eldest son, Alfred, took over, expanded and began modernizing the ranch. In 1967 he was named Farmer of the Year. He developed a well-earned reputation for growing fabulous tasting peaches. But by the early 1970’s, making a living from farming was getting more and more difficult for small operators. Al started a new business that eventually became Nitta Erosion Control now operated by his son, Scott, and daughter, Laura. Over the years most of the land has been sold to Alfred’s eldest son, John, where he operates High Ranch Nursery, a wholesale nursery. For the last few years Al maintained one acre of peaches and a few plums and Asian pears for his loyal customers, family and friends. So many people have made a tradition of enjoying the delicious peaches he grew every summer.
With Al’s death in May of 2010, and Ellen’s death in 2011, the family was at a loss as to what to do with the remaining trees. Al’s grandson, Ian, had been living in Oakland for the past 8 years studying art at California College of the Arts, formerly California College of Arts and Crafts, working in a hardware store and establishing his illustration career. He spoke up and said he was done with city living, ready to move back to his rural roots and take over the care of the peaches. After much discussion and a couple of farm business classes, his parents, Mark and Jennie, decided to join in to help him learn the business. They are now implementing sustainable farming methods and organic practices. Mark grew up on the ranch doing chores and running equipment. He is employed at his brother’s nursery as Facilities Manager, where he fixes and builds just about anything, great traits for a farmer. Jennie has been running a successful landscape design business for over 20 years and avidly gardening since youth. They have all been involved with some form of agriculture most of their lives. The time was right in so many ways for the three of them to get involved.
We know we have some gigantic footsteps to fill but we do have lots of help. We especially appreciate all the assistance we receive from John and Sarah Nitta of High Ranch Nursery and Laura Bills and Scott Nitta of Nitta Erosion Control. Our family and friends have been incredibly supportive and helpful. We do this for all of you and for those who came before us.
-Mark, Jennie, & Ian Nitta