Founder of present day Koda Farms, Keisaburo Koda was born in 1882 with roots in the town of Ogawa in the Fukushima prefecture of Japan. His father was a samurai of the Taira Clan, but later became an established miller and broker of rice and rice flour. As a young man, Keisaburo attained a university degree and became a school principal at the age of twenty. Familiar with stories of fellow Japanese, who had journeyed to America to seek their fortunes, Keisaburo eventually resigned from his position to pursue his dreams.
Following his arrival in California in 1908, Keisaburo undertook numerous ventures. Early on, he wildcatted for oil in the Coalinga hills and opened a chain of laundry shops. With a handful of partners, Keisaburo established North America Tuna Canning Company near San Pedro to process the catch of 39 Japanese American commercial vessels. After selling the tuna cannery he founded Golden West Canning Company in Los Angeles to process vegetables. Keisaburo eventually sold this business to pursue farming in Sutter County and revisit his familial roots in rice, leasing land in the Knight’s Landing area in the late 1910s.
In the late 1920s, Keisaburo and his family moved to the San Joaquin Valley town of Dos Palos in central California to start a new farming venture. Keisaburo formed State Farming Co., Inc. with his American-born children as stockholders to comply with the Alien Land Law of 1913. This law denied “aliens ineligible to citizenship” the right to own land in California. (As part of a general anti-Asian trend spreading along the West Coast, Asians immigrants were the only racial group defined as “aliens ineligible to citizenship.”)
An innovator in the rice industry, Keisaburo helped pioneer rice growing techniques such as sowing seed with airplanes. By the early 1940s, his integrated farming operation included a modern rice dryer and mill that allowed complete quality control from seed to store shelf. Due to his success, Keisaburo became widely known amongst Japanese Americans as the “Rice King.”