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.
I am not one to get anxious over minor details- I can find order in most chaotic scenes, and prefer piles of paper on top of a desk over clear surfaces with drawers stuffed incomprehensibly. But there is something about seeing a field full of weeds going to seed that makes my stomach flutter with panic.
Visiting Hama Farm helped to put all of that anxiety into perspective though. 9 years into his journey as a natural farmer, a few weed seeds don't mean much compared to the years of weed seeds banked in the neglected soils he's slowly nurtured back to production. Rather than fight the onslaught, he simply alternates which fields he harvests from year to year, clearing only the areas encroaching on the plants he is utilizing that season.
Emi Do: Exploring ideas in small scale agriculture: feasibility, viability, relevance and resilience.