On the 19th of November, the 2nd seminar of “Shokuto Nou no Mirai Kaigi in Kameoka (Food Policy Council, Kamoka) 2018: Making Kameoka an organic town!” was held at Galleria Kameoka, Kyoto. This seminar was composed of two parts: a keynote speech titled “Connecting with the world, connecting in the regions: Experiences in Ichijima Town, Hyogo Prefecture and international trends in organic farming” by Mr. Shinji Hashimoto, an organic farmer in Ichijima Town, Tanba City, Hyogo Pref., followed with Q&A session and the workshop in which the participants talked about their background and presented what they thought was necessary to make Kameoka a town of organic farming.
Mr. Hashimoto started farming in the former Ichijima Town (now Tanba City), Hyogo Pref. in 1988. But his work is not confined to farming or to Japan. He has been organizing workshops/seminars on organic farming in Ichijima Town and Tanba City, and he currently serves on the board of IFOAM Asia (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements). His farming is integrating livestock (free range chickens) with organic farming (about 40 to 50 varieties of vegetable) – mixed livestock-crop farming. He started his talk by introducing the teikei system (collective purchasing and delivery based on a producer-consumer partnership) between organic farmers in Ichijima Town and a consumer group in Kobe City named “Shokuhin Kougai wo Tsuihoushi Anzen na Tabemono wo Motomeru Kai (the association for safe food and elimination of health hazards by food pollution)” since the 1970s, and then gave an explanation about the JAS standard (Japanese Agricultural Organic Standard) for organic products. Though the JAS Standard is specific to Japan, it drew upon the international standard adopted by IFOAM and was established in 2000. However, it should be noted that there is a gap in perception towards what is considered as “organic” even amongst organic farmers: “natural farming” vs. “organic farming”. As previously mentioned, while there is an international standard established for “organic farming”, there is none for “natural farming”. In view of the fact that the JAS standard is in line with the international standard, which can thereby provide certain credibility to the organic-certified produce, he has obtained the JAS organic certificate.
Moving on to the next topic – the international trends in organic farming, he explained now that it has gained popularity across the world, organic produce tends to be sold at mass retailers with organic certified-label abroad, not in the teikei style as in Japan. This also means that sales of organic produce in Japan is not increasing much. The problem lay with organic produce being not articulately visible to consumers, he claimed. What he thinks is effective and necessary is not only to expect Japanese customers to support organic farming, but to attract foreign tourists, in other words, those who tend to have a more accommodating view towards organic produce. This, according to him, might function as a catalysis for Japanese consumers to be more interested in organic produce.
He is also part of WWOOF(*)and has been accepting lots of volunteers from abroad in his farm. Unfortunately, his farm was significantly damaged by recent typhoons and heavy rain. He had previously planned to expand business by focusing on growing a single variety of crop, but decided to return to growing a wide variety of crops and also started learning “natural farming” out of concerns about damages to his farm and facility, which could cause a large loss, in case of natural disasters.
In the following Q&A session, the participants raised questions regarding how he had institutionalized the network of organic farmers and promoted sales in order to create an organic town in Ichijima and Tanba. Yuki no Satozukuri Kyogikai (council for creating an organic town) in Tanba City consists of two groups with a relatively younger membership in their 20s and 30s: Tanba-shi Yuki Nougyou Kenkyukai (research society for organic farming in Tanba City) and Shukka Kumiai (shipping union): the former mainly organizes seminars and workshops, the latter arranges a collective shipment of produce. Shipping union requires its members to be the JAS organic-certified. According to Mr. Hashimoto, organic produce is predominantly shipped out to the outside of Tanba.
In the latter half of the seminar, each participant wrote down 1) name and area of residence, 2) work, 3) what s/he thinks needs to make Kameoka an organic town and relevant ideas on a drawing paper, and then presented to the others. With regard to No.3, they wrote down ideas on sticky notes so that they could be grouped under the same category during discussion. By doing so, it was illuminated that the top priority found amongst the participants was establishing multilevel networks among producers and between the production side and sales side, as evinced by the most number of sticky notes. Other ideas were grouped into food hub such as restaurant and produce stand, PR including establishing an image of Kameoka as an organic town, creating a model area and branding, education including agriculture education and school lunch, engaging JA and the local government, making concrete rules for organic agriculture and produce and so on.
The participants of this seminar included not only the farmers in Kameoka City, but also those working in the distribution sector, local policymakers, residents from neighboring areas, which highlighted that various actors shared the high level of interest in expanding organic farming in their area and networking and linking with local organic farmers. A number of young organic farmers were also present, and I am sure that they were inspired by Mr. Hashimoto’s talk and interactions with the other participants.
This seminar focused on organic farming, but the following seminar series shall not be limited to promotion of organic farming, and further extend the theme to re-thinking the way of food. Next, we do plan to hold a meeting, making best use of this “network” that came out of this seminar.
*WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, the program to link hosts, mainly (but not necessarily limited to) organic farmers, with WWOOFers or volunteers who hope to learn and have hands-on experience. Hosts provide accommodation and meals, and volunteers provide support mostly in terms of labor work, without any money transaction.
(Translated by Yuko K.)