From Aug 25th to 27th, I had an opportunity to visit Nagano Prefecture, one of the FEAST Project’s research fields, together with other members of WG2. During our visit, we joined the regular meeting of the Nagano Agriculture and Food Association (NAGANO Nou to Shoku no Kai) and met up with some of its key persons for interview.
The Nagano Agriculture and Food Association was co-founded in 2013 by two organic farmers and another local who is in involved in sales and processing of local, organic and traditional vegetables. The members get together at a community center in Matsushiro Town, Nagano City for a monthly meeting. Our participation in the meeting held on the 25th constituted a special workshop in which the FEAST members gave talks on the formulation of civic food networks and food policy, organic farming in Akita Prefecture, and the FEAST’s activities in Noshiro City, Akita Pref., and Kyoto City and Kameoka City, Kyoto Pref., which was then followed with group discussion. The participants talked about the reasons why they decided to join the association, what they thought were important and challenges in terms of promoting and enhancing corporation among various organizations, and building a new network among many other topics. The time for this meeting was limited, and the participants didn’t seem to have their fill of discussion, but we were duly able to tap into stories that their activities had led to the expansion of network and activities in their locality.
On the 26th, we interviewed two key members who assumed a crucial role in the activities of the association. One of them used to work for the Regional Agricultural Administration Office and started to get involved in the association as an official in charge of food education. With his experiences in public administration, he was largely responsible for drafting a proposal towards regulations regarding the Main Crop Seeds Law that the association submitted to the prefectural government. The other interviewee was one of the co-founders who shared his story about what he had done before moving to Nagano, life after he migrated and started agriculture, and how the association came about and its activities gained momentum.
The activities that WG2 focuses on include building civic networks to explore local food and agriculture, and Japanese version of Food Policy Council (FPC) which designs and develops food policy in the bottom up manner. In the case of Nagano, the Nagano Agriculture and Food Association has been playing a pivotal role in attracting people from outside of Nagano City and serving as their gathering platform. Furthermore, its activities have expanded to other areas including Obuse Town, and the process of organizational development is currently ongoing. We are well aware that we can never emphasize enough the difficulties and challenges of building linkages among different stakeholders and organizations and, needless to say, working together towards the same goal. However, we were surely and profoundly inspired by the stories shared by the members of the Nagano Agriculture and Food Association. Thus, we would like to relish the challenge of building such a network while scrupulously examining and take due account of the characteristics of each locality.
(Translated by Yuko K.)