For a second you might think, they look like celebrities.
Actually, they are Miyazaki prefecture’s farmers.
In an interview of President Taniguchi of Hyakushoutai, a company that deals in the agriculture of traditional vegetables in Miyazaki prefecture, compelling keywords, such as “easy farming”, “the Uniqlo of vegetables”, and “Farmer’s College”, continued to surface, conveying its attraction to the younger generation.
Passing on food traditions to future generations
Mass media carries on about the “Japanese wolf” and “Japanese crested ibis” being endangered species, but when it comes to vegetables, no one says a word.
Some even say, “There is no need to eat traditional vegetables.”
However, is it really right for these vegetables inherited from our ancestors to become extinct? I strongly believe that “someone needs to pass it on to the next generation.”
From being somebody’s problem to being my problem
A book that I borrowed from staff from the prefecture’s agricultural experiment station, about tradition vegetables, was what started my efforts for traditional vegetables.
“I didn’t know Miyazaki had vegetables like these! It would be sad to see them lost,”
I thought at first, thinking it was someone else’s problem.
However, when I started growing Sadowara eggplant, I realized it didn’t look good compared to the usual store-bought vegetables, but it tasted amazing. That was when I became attracted to tradition vegetables.
It slowly became my problem, not someone else’s.
A time when farmers think about marketing
The Sadowara eggplant is a type of eggplant that was grown in the Shimizu family’s territory of Sadowara. It is said that this eggplant was enjoyed by Takamori Saigo and Toshimichi Okubo.
All vegetables, including traditional vegetables, have a history and story.
Rather than thinking “I’ll buy daikon since its cheap”, if you can know it’s history and can imagine the farmer that grew it with affection, you will have a richer dinner table.
And, not only should farmers simply package their vegetables, but we should also be creative with POP advertising for stores and make efforts to tell the history and story of their vegetables.
For customers to understand the vegetable’s story, purchase it, and consume it.
This is what will generate fans for our vegetables.
As a result, consumers will see these vegetables in mass media and on TV, they will find opportunities for tastings at demonstration sales held periodically in department stores, and eventually, they will become familiar with our vegetables.
Showing the next generation the attraction of farming
I cannot allow the history of crops to be lost with our generation. I want more people to understand farming. So, I established Hyakushoutai to communicate the allure of farming.
To the younger generation, being “cool” is important.
“I can’t take a vacation.” “I can’t make much money.” “It doesn’t look cool.” “I won’t be popular with the girls.” If this is what the younger generation think, they will not want to become farmers. But, rather than complaining about the current situation of farming, if we reverse our thinking and make efforts to improve the situation, farming will become an attractive job.
I hope that, in the future, farming will become another job choice for job hunters.
But right now, if you tell your parents that you want to become a farmer, very few will approve.
But if farming becomes a yearned job earning reactions like “its admirable that you want to farm,” the farming environment will keep improving. Agriculture is an important industry that will become an indication of Japan’s national strength.
Farming that is easy: “easy-farming”
It is important for the younger generation to grow vegetables easily. This also means that it needs to be “fun”.
If we sometimes felt that the old-fashioned production system was tough, those who are new to farming will have a hard time accepting it.
I, too, started with “making” in the farming makeover.
By becoming six-sided, processing (of food) was reformed. On the Internet, distribution is being reformed. But the “making” part of the production process has not been reformed since after WWII.
Vinyl greenhouses and tractors are just mechanization and capital investment. Spending money to streamline business, will just increase the debts of farmers.
It is necessary to prove that farming can be easy, without having to spending money.
If your back hurts, raise the height of your crops.
Humans walk on two feet. Crouching down to tend to vegetables at your feet will cause your back to ache. It’s grueling.
“If this goes on, the younger generation will not want to become farmers.” So, I thought we should raise the crops to waist-height. At first, it was just an idea we laughed about, but after trial and error, I began to see a way to do this.
It is still in the trial stages, but since finding a way to make vegetables with high nutritional value, I began pitching these delicious vegetables to major department stores in the Tokyo area.
Making an innovation like Uniqlo in farming
Before becoming a farmer, I worked for 10 years at Miyazaki’s central wholesale market. In vegetable production, I had experience with the production, wholesale, and retail genres.
I was already good at changing perspectives, so I was able to see things from the consumer’s standpoint and the producer’s standpoint. This also links to the idea of Hyakushoutai.
Agriculture is one of the handful industries that still has room for innovation. There are still many opportunities and possibilities.
We want to become the Uniqlo of vegetables.
Being the Uniqlo of vegetables means making high quality, low cost products from the consumer’s perspective.
Our concept is to make efforts to grow high quality vegetables, while providing many products at low, reasonable prices.
For example, delicious kyo-yasai costs 500yen each. This is a little expensive for the average housewife.
In order to sell good vegetables at an affordable price, we continue to think and experiment.
If you want to farm, please come to Hyakushoutai!
Actually, we are planning to open a farming school next year, or the year after.
I learned from students in Tokyo who came to my lectures, that even if they want to go into farming, they don’t know who to talk to.
If you want to farm, come to Yakushoutai!
Yakushoutai will realize farming that is easy and provides low-cost, high-quality vegetables that please society.
There is no need to train at a farm, learn tomato growing at a meager salary or take a great risk in being 10 million yen in debt to build a vinyl greenhouse.
Through the farming academy, you can learn processing techniques, distribution, selling on the Internet, and accounting for farming. Like going to driving school, study as a live-in student and go home to farm. That is fine.
It is important not to give up on what you like.
There is a proverb saying “things past cannot be recalled”. Be steadfast and push forward with what you believe. If there is something you don’t understand, unabashedly ask someone.
The other day, a college student from Kyushu saw Yakushoutai on TV and called to say he wanted to work with us. He is planning on joining us next month. There are more youth that are self-motivated to learn and try new things.
Continue challenging yourself, and the road will pave its way.
I do not know how much I can contribute, but with my personal motto to “make snap decisions and implement speedily”, I will continue pursuing my dream of passing on traditional vegetables to the future and educating the next generation of farmers.
HOME PAGE of Hyakusyotai
Vegetable producer team of “Hyakusyoutai”in Kyushu, Miyazaki. They are working on the production of safe and delicious vegetables. You can purchase their products via website.