Author and third-generation farmer David “Mas” Masumoto has been writing books related to the farm life he’s embraced for 40 years since his 1995 book “Epitaph for a Peach.” There’s been a long list of titles since then including “Wisdom of the Last Farmer” and “Letters to the Valley, A Harvest of Memories.”
Those works took a traditional path to publication. For his latest work, “Changing Season: A Father, A Daughter, A Family Farm” (Heyday, $16), written with his daughter Nikiko, he’s taken a different approach. The author turned to a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to get the book printed and for a book tour that will happen in May. The initial goal of $7,500 was surpassed, with $13,686 raised.
Masumoto says the decision to turn to a crowdfunding campaign is just part of the shifting publishing world they wanted to explore with this book. While it wasn’t exactly the same, Masumoto used a form of crowdfunding almost 30 years ago.
“When I did an oral history in 1987, I sent 50 letters to family and friends and they made donations,” Masumoto says.
“Changing Season” is officially the first time father and daughter have worked on this type of book together. Masumoto did use letters his daughter wrote to him from college as part of his writings for The Fresno Bee. And the Masumoto family worked together on a cookbook, “The Perfect Peach: Recipes and Stories from the Masumoto Family Farm.”
The book looks at farming, family and succession that is explored through funny and dramatic stories of change. During the three years that went into putting “Changing Season” together, father and daughter talked about how the process should work. They decided not to edit each other’s work and just write their own essays. But they did spend a lot of time discussing the outline and topics before writing.
Masumoto jokes it was the key to making sure “we saved our sanity.”
Nikiko says working with her father covered a wide “emotional spectrum.”
Sometimes, one’s writings sparked the other.
“One of my essays is on feminism and farming,” Nikiko says. “At the end, I ask my father if he thinks he’s a feminist.”
That question sparked an essay by Masumoto.
Some of the essays are serious, and some fun. They include “The Art of Pruning” and “Old Shovels, Old Friends.”
As a teenager, Masumoto, 62, rejected the farming life that he lived while growing up. He eventually returned to the 80-acre farm when he realized how much farming meant to him in terms of family and as a writer. That realization came during a 1975 trip to Japan to visit family working as small farmers. He realized how much he loved farming while working in the rice paddies.
He returned to the family’s Valley home and his father gave him more responsibilities. The work took up most of his life, but he managed to find a few early morning minutes to write.
Masumoto says there is no hard line between his being a writer and a farmer. The only difference between the organic crops grown on his farm and his writings is that once his crops have been picked, he doesn’t have to promote the crops. Books take more work and that’s why the money was needed to do a book tour.
Nikiko is excited about the opportunity to tour. She’s concentrating on the most creative way for them to do readings this time.
The release of the book in May coincides with a documentary on the Masumoto farm, which will air on public television stations. It’s scheduled to show in Fresno on April 28 and then move to other PBS affiliates in May.
The publisher of “Changing Season,” Heyday Books, is a Berkeley-based nonprofit press that focuses on writing that emphasizes the diverse cultures in California.