Returning to My Family Farm Is About More Than Succession. It’s About Story.

A farmer wearing a sunhat rakes hay out of a truck.

We’ve either known it personally or seen it on TV a dozen or more times—young person leaves the farm to go to college and never looks back. Writer and fourth generation California farmer Nikiko Masumoto did leave the farm, and after a successful college career (B.A. and M.A.), she returned with dedication and purpose to her family farm. In this 2018 Civil Eats essay, she explains her ideas about farming and the “ancestral story” she is part of.

Read it here.


1. Although Masumoto uses the word story in several different ways, the term has a solid, cohesive core throughout her essay. What does Masumoto mean by story? How would you define and describe it? Does her assertion that land is about story make sense to you? Why or why not? Use an example from your life to help explain your response.

2. Masumoto is probably not writing for an exclusive audience of other farmers. How do we know? Who is Masumoto’s intended audience? What is her purpose in this essay? How did you arrive at your conclusion? Point to examples from the essay to support your thinking. (HINT: Check out the context of the essay; what kind of source is Civil Eats? What topics does it cover? Who is its audience? And by the way, checking context is a good habit to develop for anything that you read online.) 

3. LET’S TALK. Masumoto claims that the “shared respect” generated by “witnessing each other’s work” can become “the foundation for conversations about change, policy, and other things more contentious.” How plausible is her assertion? Think of an experience in your life that might support (or not) Masumoto’s idea, and share experiences with one or two classmates. How similar are your experiences? What new insights have you gained from the conversation? 

4. LET’S WRITE. Masumoto conceives of her life as part of a longer story, and in her case, the story centers around farming. Yours may not, but think about your life in that way—as a single verse in a much longer story. Contextualize yourself into “the conversation that began before you were here.” You may not know many concrete details of that conversation—many of us don’t—but construct what you can, and draw on history and accounts of world events that may have shaped the people who shaped you. Write a narrative in which you are part of a longer chain.

14 thoughts on “Returning to My Family Farm Is About More Than Succession. It’s About Story.

  1. What Masumoto means by the term story within the text, she is referring to the origin of the land, of how the land came about, and all of the events and experiences that have taken place on the land throughout the numerous years of its existence. I would define and describe the term story as used in the text as the origin of a particular place or being and all of the events and experiences that have occurred throughout time. Masumoto’s assertion that the land is about story does make sense to me because the land is deeply rooted within her family’s ancestral history and has been passed on from generation to generation, which has a special place within her and her family’s hearts. In addition, the land that is mentioned is unique to her family’s history which can be referred to as a story. In my opinion, I feel that her assertion does make sense primarily because any place, thing, individual, or anything in the world has a particular meaning and story to which it tells and can be shared with numerous other individuals. A particular example from my life is a piece of land in Nayarit, Mexico owned by my great grandfather from my father’s side who used to farm beans, squash, tomatoes, and various other fruits and vegetables. My great grandfather would farm on his own land with some of my other family members, but he liked to do most of the work himself. The land owned by my great grandfather gave him a sense of pride and joy because it was his own land that he sacrificed many things in his life for, which in essence gives a particular story to the land by my great grandfather. This piece of land has now been passed on from generation to generation within my family in Mexico and still continues to operate. Overall, I understand and can relate to Masumoto’s story and life experiences of how land or anything in general, can have a particular story to tell for others to know and learn about.


      1. Hi Victor, after reading your repose I agree with the fact that you mention that Masumoto is referring to “story” as “the origin of the land” because I also think that in this case Masumoto really admire the history about the land that she bought because it holds a good meaning to her. Also, because is where her family grew up in in which you can say that is the origin where she came from and for that reason the land is very important to her. Also, something that I like that you mention is that “the land is deeply rooted within her families’ ancestral history” which I agree with you can tell by this that this is why is land was very important to Masumoto and why she decided to buy it. Also I think that she bought the land horned her family in a way and make them proud.


    1. Hello Victor after reading your post, Masumoto does use the story in her unique way which she related to memories, ancestry, the land, and even the origin of the land itself. I do think as well that the land is deeply rooted in their family all because of her Jiichan. That was where she had memories with him and it was attached to her and had a huge impact on her. As you said, Victor, the family’s ancestral history was passed on from generation to generation. Furthermore, I can relate to you Victor with your experience with the piece of land in Nayarit, Mexico. It looked like your grandfather was proud of what he did and with his farming and even on his own. It seemed like you enjoyed visiting that land when you were talking about it. That is how I felt when I visited my grandma’s house in Mex. She was proud of that house she loved that house very dearly. It seemed like your great grandfather loved his land and was very proud of it as well.


    2. Good evening Victor, after reading and going through your response I found it very informative. One of the first things that I found very informative about the term story that she uses throughout her essay. The points you made I found very interesting and informative was about how you explain the term in different ways than what I had thought of. We both have some sort of correlation in the way we describe the term story. The way i found it simmer was about it being “ the origin of a particular place or being and all of the events and experiences that have occurred throughout time” which i found to be on the same basis because i believe the term also means where a particular thing is happening and what is going on in that place. One other great explanation I liked was the way you explained how her story is also similar to your personal experience.


  2. The prompt that I chose was prompt 1. I noticed that Masumoto uses the word story in many different ways. She uses it like creating a story for herself, for her family, and it seems like she uses it like it is her destiny to work on the farm. She even uses it as a background of her family and her Jiichan buying the 40 acres of land, and how it was started. The way I would describe “story” is the way she is using it. It refers to something that makes you glad and proud of something that you cherish. All the special memories you have of that special someone or something. The assertion that Masumoto has the land makes sense to me clearly. She loves that land because that is where she has her memories with her Jiichan. That is her “happy” place and she feels a connection with her Jiichan. As Masumoto said, “I became a farmer because I felt a deep calling toward home—a calling to give my most radical self to a single place.” An example from life is my grandma’s house in Mexicali. It was special to me because any little event there was like a birthday party, New Year’s Eve, or even celebrations from Mexico, everything would happen at my grandma’s house. It was a really big yard and house compared to other houses in Mex. As a kid, her house had a feeling of warmth and I felt joy and excitement. I even got excited when my parents talked about going. Her house is being passed down from generation to generation and will continue to be passed down. To sum it all up, I can understand and relate to Masumoto’s story and her life experiences.


    1. Hi Damian. Masumoto does use the term story in a way that is unique to her in her own way that is based on her jiichan’s land and the memories of them farming together as she was growing up. In my opinion, I do think that it was her actual destiny to work on the farm and operate it because of the memories with her jiichan and how much it impacted her life. As well, this is evident when Masumoto mentions “I became a farmer because I felt a deep calling toward home—a calling to give my most radical self to a single place.” To emphasize, it was the connection between her jiichan and the farm that motivated her to continue to operate it and in a sense have her own story to tell as well. I can relate to your experience with your grandmother’s house and for it to seem like there was always a celebration going on and the special place it has in your heart. I relate to this with my own grandmother because we always celebrate New Year, birthdays, and Christmas there too which brings me and my family so much joy. Good job.


    2. Good evening Damian, I agree with the explanation you give about Masumoto and the different explanations you give about her family’s land. I like the way you explain the word Story, especially how you go into different details about how she used it to explain the destiny of the land and what it means to the family. One of the interesting things was the way you describe the word Story, which is the way she refers to something that makes her glad and proud, which is interesting to me because I would have never thought of it like that, but now that I think of it, it makes total sense to me. Another thing I really liked with your response was the details and overview that you gave. Especially with the way you explain it with your personal experience. Overall I really like the way you incorporate all the main parts of the essay into your response which I think was very good.


  3. The prompt that I chose to base my response on was prompt 1. The first thing I noticed was that Masumoto uses the term story in lots of different ways. The first time I noticed she used it was when she was talking about herself and her family. One way I also understood it was she was trying to tell us her story and the story of the land and all the stories that come with it while they experienced many things on the land. The way I would personally describe the term story would be when trying to portray something or someone while also giving the audience a message about the topic. For myself personally it does make sense in the way she uses the term story to describe what is going on with her family and the land they have, especially since it has ancestral history from her past family. A way I can use one of my life experiences/ examples is family land that is being passed on through many generations. While my past ancestors have all raised livestock on it and lived on, the time has come where it is my turn to tell the story of my land and past family just like Masumoto did in the essay. While Masumoto’s land has so much value she does a very good job explaining the story of her ancestors and her family’s land. Overall I understood what Masumoto was trying to portray but using the word story in her essay and as well I can also relate to her on the basis of what land can mean to someone and their family.


    1. Hi Camilo, I think that Masumoto does use the term “story” in different ways, but I think that she uses it to describe more the history about the land that she bought and why it was very meaningful to her. Also, I think that she uses the term to emphasize in the history that that the land had and what her family has been through and why is this land important to her. Also agree with the way that Masumoto uses the term “story” and what she was trying to portray. Also, I think that it was well understood that when she mentions that “land is about story you make” which you can tell that for her the land has a lot of meaning. I also relate to this because going back to my house in Mexicali is very meaningful and fun because is where most of my family grew up in which you can say that that land is meaning to them.


    2. Hello Camilo, I think as well that Masumoto uses the word story in many different ways. But it seems like she is referring to her story on the farm as a kid, and the memories, and the way she feels about it. Aswell I think when she was using the word “story” she was referring to the history of the land and what her family has been through, and how important it is to her “Jiichin”. With your example/ experiences, that was a good example and you can relate to Masumoto. Aswell I can relate to Masumoto because my family has a house that has been passed down through generations and will continue to be. This house is very meaningful to me because I have many wonderful memories in that house as a kid and was passed down to my grandma’s brother. We had many celebrations so it is very special to me and as well the amount of land there is. Which makes it even better.


  4. I choose prompt 1. After reading the article “Returning to My Family Farm Is About More Than Succession. It’s About Story.” I can conclude that when the author Masumoto said “story” she meant more about the history of where she came from or the place that her family grew in like the farm. For example, Masumoto mentions the word “story” and she mentions it when she is referring to the past and how the farm was very important and meaningful to her and her family. Also, what I refer to when I said she meant “story” as in history is that she is not telling us a story she is telling the story of why the farm is so important to her. Which in this case the farm is important to her because is somehow where her family grew up in and that place has a lot of meaning to her because of the past that the place has. So that is why I think she meant by saying “history”. Also yes, it kind of makes sense when she says that the “land is about the story make” part because she explains that the farm has a very important meaning to her because is where her family grew up and make their life in. So, I agree because I can see that the history that the farm has in her life is very important to her because of her family. For example, I grew up in Mexicali and the house in Mexicali is very important to me because is like my childhood and I always love going there, which I can some kind understand why the farm is very important to Masumoto.


    1. Hello Vivian. Masumoto does use story in a way that is special and unique to her that is based on her grandfather’s land and the memories she has of them farming together. It is evident that when Masumoto mentions the term “story,” the meaning is more about the history of where she came from and the place/environment of where her family grew up such as the farm. To emphasize, Masumoto’s intended meaning of story does not relate to the actual history of the farm, it is the term used to describe the importance of the farm and how much it meant to her and her grandfather. I can relate to your unique experience with you having a house in Mexicali where you grew up in because I also had an experience similar to that with my grandmother’s house where half of my life is growing up, and I always loved going there.


  5. Matsumoto’s assertion is very much more reasonable than anybody could expect. When one can find a common ground with the people who do not agree with one’s thoughts and beliefs, the chances of both parties to be of great success increase. One has to think about the ideas that your opposing team could have that could be of great use to you and vice versa. Listening and communication are some of the many great things that can lead anyone and anything to great success. When two successful, yet opposing companies seal a deal and make a huge profit off it, it is pretty obvious that both companies had to hear each other’s ideas out and work things through by communicating. For instance, in one of my previous courses, my professor divided Half of the class into two opposing debate teams on whether or not people should take the Covid-19 vaccine. We performed the debate and while the judges were deciding on who would win, my team and I chatted with our opposing team and surprisingly found common ground with them. Although we had opposing opinions, both parties understood why our opposing teams were debating what they were in favor of. Some of my teammates even switched opinions and decided to fleet our team, while others joined in from their previous one. My opinion did not change, however, I was able to see a new perspective on things and understand why the opposing team thought our ideas were not the best. I used to consider myself as a very stubborn and close-minded being, nevertheless, I have begun working on being more open to change, which I am not very good at.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s