“Some of the (produce) guys didn’t want to handle Japanese-grown lettuce, but he did,” he said. Tanimura said. “He was an amazing man.”
Tanimura said Bud Antle absorbed red ink if the markets were poor so growers wouldn’t suffer. Antle’s cutting edge adoption of vacuum cooling technology and other advances served the partnership well and changed the industry in the process.
Antle was so impressed with Tanimura’s prowess as a grower that Antle asked Tanimura to farm some of his land to produce lettuce.
Aided by drip irrigation and other innovations, Tanimura said lettuce yields have increased from perhaps 300 boxes an acre decades ago to close to 1,200 boxes an acre or more today,
Bud Antle died in the late 1970s, but Tanimura retains an enduring partnership with the Antle family, Bud Antle’s son Bob Antle is co-chairman of the Tanimura & Antle board, serving with George.
Recovering fully from open heart surgery in 2004, Tanimura said he wants to still see Salinas lettuce fields when he is 100 years old. He goes to the rehab gym three times per week, determined to stay fit.
“You don’t want to be pushed around the field in a wheelchair,” he said.