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Our Voices - International CSA Symposium 2Print

Food & Farming | February 22, 2010

By Jim SluyterYohaei and Akiko grow blueberries and 40 other crops on their small farm outside of Kobe.

KOBE, Japan-Hopefully, this is a good sign: The folks producing this conference know how to stage a very good farm tour. At least that’s what it seemed like to someone who’s produced more than a few such tours himself, back in Michigan: me!

Never mind that here, near Kobe, the site of the International Symposium on Community Supported Agriculture, the farmers know only Japanese.

The farmers were young and enthusiastic, and it was a pleasure to simply watch them explain their trade during our first tour of a Japanese farm.

Furutanai Blueberry Farm is where Yohaei and Akiko grow blueberries (a crop not well appreciated in Japan) and 40 to 50 varieties of vegetables, on about 2-½ acres.

The two sell part of their crops to Community Supported Agriculture, or Teikei, as it is called here. Their boxes of produce go to Kobe and Osaka, an hour’s drive away.

“No one nearby will buy vegetables,” they explain through an interpreter. “Everyone here grows their own garden.”

I have heard that said before, in the U.S., as a reason that CSA cannot work in a particular place. I don’t really believe it in the U.S, but here it just might be so.

On the bus ride to the farm, there were few spaces not devoted to growing food, mostly in very small plots. The space taken up by buildings, the small formal gardens in front of most, and the steep sides of the foothills were about the only places not under cultivation.

The young farmers brought a jar of blueberry jam to the post-tour, evening party. Akiko is very enthusiastic about her jam. As well she should be.

At the tour she asked if anyone ate blueberries “every day.” My wife, Jo, and I came about as close as anyone, and so Jo was appointed to judge. The growers hope to make the blueberry a popular crop in Japan, and this is bound to help.

At least, that is the judge’s opinion.

Jim Sluyter is reporting for the Institute from Kobe, Japan, the site of the International Symposium on Community Supported Agricuture. Jim leads the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Get Farming! project. Reach him at jimsluyter@mlui.org.