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Dossier: Robert "Bob" Sakata, Agricultural Innovator

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Sleuthing Brighton Colorado, with a full Investigative Report by the Brighton History Detective® (aka Robin Kring)



Case Number: 000011, Identify Mural Subject

Mural Location: “Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza” by Hans Joseph Geist

Subject Identified: "Bob" Sakata, Grower of Innovation & Community Heart

ROBERT “BOB” SAKATA (1926-2022), Agricultural Innovator and Civic Leader, has touched the community as a Colorado grower of innovation and heart-felt community harvesting since his arrival in Brighton in 1944. He was always willing to share his agricultural expertise and heart with the community. Some details summarized from his Metro West obituary help tell his inspiring story:

“Robert Yoshiharu ‘Bob’ Sakata was born on April 15, 1926, in San Jose, California to Aki Nishimura and Mantaro Sakata. As a teenager, Sakata was sent to a Japanese internment camp located in Topaz, Utah in 1942. He garnered an early release from the internment camp by working on a dairy farm located in Brighton, Colorado. In 1944, the dairyman who had vouched for his conduct and character for early release, loaned him the money to purchase 40 acres of farmland in Brighton. This provided a way for his family to leave the internment camp and relocate permanently to Colorado.

Sakata graduated from Brighton High School and completed heavy coursework in math and science, which he knew would be valuable for modernizing agriculture. He endured numerous hardships as a young man, including the untimely death of his father from a car accident, the loss of his brother to cancer, and a farming accident that burned 80% of Bob’s body. After a year in the hospital, he was never expected to walk again, but through determination and his faith in God, he re-learned to walk with the help of crutches and leg braces.

Sakata met the love of his life, a local farmer's daughter named Joanna Tokunaga, and they were married in 1956 at the original First Presbyterian Church in Brighton. They were very active in the church (now located at 510 South 27th Avenue) for 65 years. The couple had three children, Robert, Vicki, and Lani. Bob also served the community on various boards and commissions in Brighton over the years.

Together, Bob and Joanna, grew Sakata Farms from 40 acres to over 3,000 acres producing sweet corn, broccoli, cabbage, onions, and beans. Sakata's innovation in seed development and consumer packaging changed the sweet corn industry in the 1980's with the introduction of Sakata Farms Gourmet Sweet Corn.

Sakata’s agricultural innovations garnered widespread recognition, including an appointment by President Nixon to the Advisory Board of the Commodity Credit Corporation in 1973 and an invitation to the White House honoring American agriculture. Among many accomplishments, Bob and Joanna were inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame, and received the Colorado Proud Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1994, Bob and Joanna hosted Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan and in 2001, His Majesty awarded Bob with The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette, for his work in building mutual understanding and friendship between the United States and Japan. In 2004, the Sakata Family was given the honor of visiting Their Majesties at their private residence in the Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan.”

In 2016, son, Robert Sakata, continued the Sakata Farms legacy growing onions, pinto beans and winter wheat.”


Discover More About the Artist and the Detective

Learn more about the Artist, Hans Joseph Geist, behind the Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza mural, in the Brighton History Detective® dossier, The Case of the New Mural and its Artist (Hans Joseph Geist). See more of Hans art at: Art by Hans Geist on Facebook.


Find more Investigative Case Reports, by Brighton History Detective®, each revealing the identity of one of the 20 intriguing Brighton characters and places, painted on the mural. Investigate the sleuthing and writing stories of yesteryear, mystery, and intrigue on the Clear Creek Publishing Authors Blog site, including: New Fiction, Victoriana, Event Planning Extraordinaire, Colorado History, and Cemetery Chats.


The Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza mural is located on the southwest corner of Main St. and Bridge St., in Brighton, Colorado. The mural is a project of the Brighton Cultural Arts Commission, whose mission is to increase arts and culture awareness and promote cultural and scientific opportunities in our community. It has been made possible with funding from the SCFD and Brighton Lodging Tax Grants.

®Brighton History Detective is a registered trademark of Clear Creek Publishing.


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