Saturday, October 10, 2009

In Memory of Masa Tsukamoto

An early E-Z Tarp brochere,courtesty of E-Z Tarp Inc.
Idaho Potato Innovator Masa Tsukamoto passes away in Boise
Boise—Blackfoot Inventor, innovator, and farmer Masa Tsukamoto passed away Thursday at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Boise, he was 86. Tsukamoto served the agriculture industry for more than 58 years, not only as a successful farmer, but through service organizations and inventions like the E-Z Tarp.

Tsukamoto developed The E-Z Tarp system in the mid 1980s to solve problems related to tarping loaded potato trucks in the field. The old tarp systems required truck drivers to climb onto the truck to cover the load. It was dangerous,took valuable time and bruised potatoes. E-Z tarp saved farmers untold millions of dollars in expenses.

In February Idaho Governor Butch Otter will posthumously award Tsukamoto the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Agriculture for Innovation at the annual Idaho Ag Summit.

Tsukamoto was born in Pocatello, Idaho, the son of Japanese immigrants that farmed the Chubbuck area. He attended Pocatello High School graduating in 1943. He went to work on the family farm then struck out on his own in 1952 to the Rising River area outside Blackfoot. He raised potatoes and grain until retirement in 1993. He married Midori Endow in 1954 and had three children, Kaydeen Burkett of Boise, Alan Tsukamoto, Blackfoot and Julie Van Orden of Pingree. He is survived by eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

After E-Z Tarp was patented, he developed the Cellar Duck, also marketed by EZ Tarp. Masa saw the need to keep the cellar ventilation pipes clean and disease free of and pests where potatoes are stored. The Cellar Duck washes ventilation pipes inside and out with high pressure water while disinfecting them in just 90 seconds with just the push of a button.

Masa also invented a water saver wheel thats equipped with five spokes and spades that prevents wasting water in fields during irrigation. He also created a shoe for potato planters that reduced soil compaction around the potato seed. These last two inventions were never patented by Masa, but were ‘imitated’ and manufactured by others since their creation.

Masa served on the advisory board of the Bingham County Extension Potato Specialist, on the Board and Bargaining Committee of the Potato Growers of Idaho, and the Board of the Idaho Potato Expo. He was awarded Lifetime Membership in the Potato Association of America in 1997, was named “Grower of the Year” in 1988 by the Idaho Potato Grower Magazine, and inducted in the Idaho Potato Hall of Fame in 1998.

In addition to his involvement in the agricultural community, Masa was an active member of the Japanese American Citizens League, serving as a board member and president for several terms. He was honored by Pocatello High School Foundation as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2009. KIFI-TV 8 selected him as one of “Eight Who Make A Difference” for helping to preserve the history of the Japanese-American internment camp in Southeastern Idaho.

Masa chaired the JACL Minidoka Project which resulted in the former Minidoka Relocation Center being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. He was a member of the Blackfoot Elks Club, served on the Board of Directors of the Greater Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce and the Board of the Bingham Housing facility. In 1997 he was honored on the Blackfoot Pride Days Nostalgia Night as a ‘Living Legend.’

Tsukamoto will forever be remembered for dedicating his life to advancing agriculture that set an example for countless others. His service to his community further exemplifies the need to contribute back to one's profession and community.

1 comment:

J. M. Endow said...

Rest peacefully, Uncle Masy. You will be deeply missed by us all.

Thanks, Jake, for the "In memory" of a great man.

--Justin Endow

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