There's something a little bit different about Masa Toyota. I'm not sure if it was the bright pink polo shirt he was wearing when we first met, his big toothy grin contrasting with broad shoulders, sun leathered skin and a constant stream of cigarettes, but I think we all knew he was a book certainly not to be judged by it's cover.
I had the opportunity to visit Lakeside Farm as a part of a research trip to Shinraicho- a small farming village on the shores of Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture. The farm was founded three years ago by Toyota-san who used to be a sales person in the apparel industry. Feeling disconnected and disenchanted with his job, and bubbling with a desire for tangible skills he ventured into agriculture 8 years ago. The farm currently employs three people: Toyota, Tanaka and Moriuchi. Tanaka has been with the farm since it's inception, and is solely responsible for the management of sales and distribution. Moriuchi joined the team this year and is responsible for production.
A week before Christmas, I boarded a bus to Shimizu, a small town in the prefecture of Shizuoka, to visit a small family owned mikan (Japanese tangerine) farm. I was SUPER excited because:
a) I love visiting farms, especially family farms
b) I love citrus and think it would be a DREAM to have too much citrus to deal with
c) I hadn't done any farm work in a couple of months and my body was aching for some physical labour.
Since arriving in Tokyo over two months ago, I've been struck by the number of 'farms' scattered throughout the city. These lots, ranging in size from a quarter to half acre, overflowing with produce ranging from corn and potatoes, to grapes and fields of blueberry bushes. In a city where it seems every square inch is optimized for maximum functionality (remember, this is the city of capsule hotels where people crawl into cubby holes for the evening), how are farms- micro as they are- able to maintain their land base? How are they able to keep their farms alive?
It seems it's a matter of policy... and peer pressure.
Pitchforks might have felt a little heavier on May 29th 2014 the day after Bill 24 was passed by BC legislature which enabled protection of farmland placed in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) over 35 years ago. The struggle for farm land preservation isn't local to BC, rather it is one being faced by farmers globally as evident by the mounds of articles posted on farmlandgrab.org.
Emi Do: Exploring ideas in small scale agriculture: feasibility, viability, relevance and resilience.