Interview With Toshi Takehara
Monday, September 26, 2016

Toshi Takehara has been gardening his entire life. From trimming bonsai trees with his stepfather in Japan to helping with his grandfather's gardening business during college, Toshi has developed a strong love for nurturing healthy plants. After retiring from a career in the airline industry, Toshi took his doctor's advice and started volunteering in Beach Cities Health District’s Garden Angels Program. Although he originally joined to stay active, he soon realized the benefits impacted far more than just his physical health. We sat down with Toshi to see how having a green thumb has actually helped him grow.

Q: How long have you lived in the Beach Cities?
A: “Only about two and a half years, I moved from Hacienda Heights. My daughter and granddaughter live in Redondo Beach, so I moved to be closer to them.”

Q: What do you enjoy about gardening?
A: “I like to grow vegetables and plant flowers and so forth. They look nice, give me something to do and it's nice to be able to grow my own food.”

Q: What sparked your interest in volunteering?
A: “Well, since I'm retired, there's not much to do except babysitting. So my doctor told me to keep active and exercise. Gardening helps me not only ‘Move Naturally’, but also get out of the house and stay active.”

Q: What do you enjoy about the Garden Angels Program?
A: “Just the opportunity to see the students grow things, and to help spread the joy of gardening.”

Q: What has been your most memorable volunteering experience?
A: “I like to trim bushes into shapes like bonsai. I'm not an expert, but my stepfather in Japan has about two or three hundred bonsai at home, all different sizes. He taught me, so that's how I got started.”

Q: Why would you recommend volunteering?
A: “To keep active, give back to the community, and see students grow vegetables and discover how they grow. I think it's important for kids to see where their food comes from and how much effort it takes to grow.”

Q: Do you find gardening to be a stress reliever?
A: “Yes, certainly. It just helps you be in the moment and forget about whatever may be bothering you.”

Q: What is the most satisfying stage in the process of growing your own food?
A: “Harvesting, because you see what you can eat and are rewarded for your hard work.”

Q: What's the most challenging thing about gardening?
A: “I think it's hard with the drought right now. You can't water every day, so the plants don't grow as well, which can be frustrating.”

Q: What are the schools currently growing?
A: “The school just finished sunflowers and pumpkins. In the fall, they're planting a whole new crop, I'm excited for that!”

Q: Were you able to make it out for BCHD’s Volunteer day?
A: “Yeah, we were over at Hermosa View helping dig up weeds, put down bark and just get the gardens ready for the new school year.“

Q: Any advice to someone interested in volunteering?
A: “Just do it. Get involved, it will be worth it."


Written with thanks to Michael Lindsey, Communications Intern