When first visioning the type of farm I wanted Yummy Yards to be, I often thought about how to bridge the relationship between consumer and producer. Was it possible to take money out of the exchange? How much could be done through exchange? The closest I came to incorporating these ideas into practice was through the 'farm support fee' that I incorporated into our CSA membership program. Members could choose to 'pay' that fee through exchange of service, labour, goods or currency. But even this felt like it was a part of our capitalist paradigm.
So imagine my surprise (and excitement!) when I heard about Ashigara Nou No Kai (loosely translated to Ashigara Agricultural Association) and how their labour-exchange community farm operated. I hope I can capture in this post the essence of the magic that holds this group together.
It's not everyday that are faced with a small door camouflaged in the sound absorbing wall on the side of a busy highway, and I wasn't sure what would be awaiting us on the other side. The highway bus we had taken had just dropped us off, and the four of us spent a few bewildered moments trying to figure out what to do when we spotted the door. Thankfully, what awaited us on the other side of the door was a smiley Uozumi-san, ushering us into a large and comfortable passenger van.
Uozumi-san is touted as being one of the pioneers of the organic farming movement in Japan. He has been farming for over 40 years getting his start as a hired farmer in a group collective formed to grow organic produce for a consumer group concerned with the health effects of pesticide and herbicide residue on food products. He and his wife branched off to do their own thing shortly thereafter, but were approached by a 100 member consumer group to be their sole produce and egg provider. Those same customers (some have left, and some new have joined) remain the base for their farm sales.
We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day weather wise, but what we didn't know as we timidly made our way through Blueberry Garden ASAHI farm overlooking the Ashigara Heiya valley, was that this day was going to be beautiful in all senses of the word.
This day, was the annual miso making workshop hosted by Miso No Kai, a group I first heard about the group when I learned of the many projects under the big umbrella of Ashigara Nou No Kai. It was lucky that this year's miso making workshop happened to be during a visit from my good friends Doug and Gemma, farmers visiting from Zaklan Heritage Farm in (sort of) Vancouver. And so it was, that I excitedly signed us all up to pop in to observe.
Emi Do: Exploring ideas in small scale agriculture: feasibility, viability, relevance and resilience.