Sunday, February 25, 2007

Local food better for you, and the environment - News

Local food better for you, and the environment - News

Great article on how local food can be grown and used to supply local needs. Of course out of Boulder, CO, one of my old haunts. I really like that place.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Working in the red

Went to visit my farming teacher, Mr. Kitagawa today. He was upset because he was doing his taxes and found that he was working in the red for the last tax year, to the tune of about $20,000. He said that for the first time he and his wife had itemized everything, socks, gloves, oil...everything, and still they came out with a loss. He was upset, and suggested that I stay away from farming rice. I reminded him that I was up for subsistence farming rather than trying to make a profit.

I really feel sorry for him. He has spent his life growing organic rice and is proud of it, and now he is close to dispair. I will push on with my plans and try to help him sell his rice this year for a profit rather than go through the common chanels. I'll have to do a longer piece on JA and how it operates.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Field Rice

Went and visited a local farmer yesterday who grows organically, and plants field rice rather than rice grown in a paddy. He lives on top of a hill and his property does not have the water to grow in a paddy. He grows about 1 tan of field rice instead. Right now one of his three fields is in barley. The other two are fallow right now, but after he harvests the barley, he will put in rice. He rotates his crops among the three fields, and though he doesn't grow enough grain to supply all of his needs, he goes a long way to being self sufficient.

He says that field rice is a little bit more difficult to grow, because there are more weeds, so given the same area, field rice is more work than paddy rice. He has some great ideas about crop rotation and planting. I will go back soon to catch up on his barley progress and see how he's doing personally.

Funny, I had visited his house before unknowingly. I was visiting the woman next door to him who has a small Omotokyo temple. Most of the surrounding property is in crops.

I am now in the process of trying to borrow a nearby field to experiment with growing field rice.

Friday, February 09, 2007

It's alright to be a foreigner

One other sticking point in the process of coming into posession of a farming licence was whether a citizen of another country could rent farm land in Japan. I seem to be the first one to have done so, at least in this prefecture.

I called the town office today for clarification of their findings. It seems that it's alright for me to rent land. I was also advised to have my paperwork in line by the middle of April . That is actually much more time than I thought I had.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rice farming update

Yesterday I spent the day with my rice farming teacher, my gohan guru, my sage of the soil. I will call him Kitagawa, because I would prefer not to use his real name. There are several things one needs to become a rice farmer. I have none of them.

First, one needs fields, or paddies. I was originally considering five "tan." (A tan is a unit of area equal to 0.1 cho or 0.099174 hectare.) That is the minimum required land holding to obtain a farming licence. With a farming licence, one can obtain loans and national subsidies when your land is in soy or barley every three years. However, most paddies are in 3 tan blocks. It would be more practical to do 3 tan. I have been warned that 6 tan is quite a large amount, and that farming that much is very difficult, especially when not using agricultural chemicals. The weeding is quite a chore I guess. I'm not so worried about the weeding; there are people who will help with that. The problem is how to store the harvest. One tan produces about 300 kilos of rice. That means I would have to store 1800 kilos of rice. I could do that at the farming cooperative elevator, but all the rice gets mixed together and you get a kind of receipt for the grain you store there. That would mean that my naturally-grown rice would be thrown in with all the Frankenrice. Not a great option.

Which brings us to the next thing that I don't have. Land. If I had land, I could store the grain in a facility that I make there. However, I don't have any. The paddies I can rent from a farmer to get the farming licence and then buy the land, but it probably wouldn't be ready for the harvest. The ideal would be to have a house, a barn and so now and then be ready come October. The problem is that you have to have a farming licence to buy a farm house complete with all the barns and sheds. It's like "Who's on first?"

I plod on, searching for a hold.