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BRIGHTON, CO — With 67 years of farming under his belt, Bob Sakata has seen weather conditions range hit the extremes. This year, he said, Colorado is coming off the “lowest snowpack in history,” and growers remain in the throes of drought.

But at his office in Brighton, the well-respected founder of Sakata Farms said better conditions last fall and good farming practices this year are allowing both the onion crop and the sweet corn to do well.

“The challenge bob-sakata-in-sweet-corn-fiBob Sakata in a field of sweet corn just outside Brighton, CO. The crop, which he described as ‘one of the best ever,’ was expected to start shipping July 15.this year is water,” Mr. Sakata told The Produce News June 19. “We were fortunate that last fall we had a surplus of water and could fill the reservoir, but this year there’s no surplus, and 2013 could be even worse.”

Still, onions and sweet corn both look good, and he said, “The sweet corn is beautiful, one of the best crops ever.”

The corn will come in 10 days early, starting July 15 rather than July 25, he added.

Onions could start in late August, slightly earlier than normal, but Mr. Sakata said that use of a mechanical harvester requires longer field curing time.

“It all [onion shipping start dates] depends on the availability of water and no hail,” he said. “If the river continues to run and we get the water we need, we’ll have a normal crop.”

Born and raised in Northern California to immigrants from Japan, Mr. Sakata and his family, as well as approximately 120,000 other Japanese-Americans, were relocated to an internment camp following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Sakatas spent World War II in a camp in Utah.

After the war, Mr. Sakata moved to Colorado and started farming north of Denver. The farm grew from 40 acres to 2,400, eventually expanding to include not only his beloved sweet corn but also onions, broccoli and cabbage.

The operation, which last year was handed down from Mr. Sakata to his son, Robert (R.T.) Sakata, cut broccoli from its program in 2012.

“We did that because of labor problems and food-safety issues,” Bob Sakata, who continues to work at the office every day, said. Field corn, pinto beans and wheat are being produced instead of broccoli.

The longtime farmer has served on a number of boards and commissions, including the National Onion Association and the National Sugar beet Growers Association. He’s been an adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a member of the Cooperative Extension Advisory Board at Colorado State University and director for an irrigation ditch company.

Mr. Sakata is also a member of the Adams County Economic Development Board and the Colorado Food Safety Task Force, and he served as local school board president. On June 21 he took part in a farm tour for students in the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture’s Ag in the Classroom program. The following day he was the keynote speaker for the tour’s luncheon.

R.T. Sakata is current president of the Colorado Onion Association and has served on the Colorado Governor’s Task Force as well.