Good Health and the Challenges of Organic Farming

Farming in Japan is and always has been a family business.  Whether it be the ubiquitous rice paddies along the bullet train lines, the hillside tea fields and citrus orchards overlooking rugged blue coastlines, or small cabbage and yam patches between old farmhouses on winding country lanes, the folks doing the work in their caps and sun bonnets and rubber boots are the same people who own the land. They’ve lived in these places since birth, farming as families and communities for generations.

Because of their intimate connection with the land, it’s easy to imagine that Japanese farmers would naturally want to convert to purely organic farming. And they do know the obvious benefits; after all, they eat what they grow. Their grandparents, who never suffered from stomach ailments or skin rashes (the way the younger generations do) grew up on foods grown naturally, without chemicals, and still work the land every day, though they are well into their eighties and nineties.    

But the pressure to use synthetic fertilizers and chemical compounds to increase productivity is as real in Japan’s agricultural industry as it is anywhere in the world.  Even here, organic farming doesn’t yet receive the support it deserves.  The movement struggles against the inertia of markets driven by the demands of big distributors and retailers, where cost pressure and competition from imports, as well as the habits of consumers, who are trained to demand artificially perfect fruits and vegetables, hinder the marketability of wholistic farm produce.

When HARAI’s Shinichiro Yamamoto traveled throughout Japan in search of the best quality, certified-organic fruits and vegetables, he had only 2% of Japan’s total farm output to choose from.  Putting our health first means supporting – and thanking - the small but invaluable organic farming community!

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