Monday, October 29, 2012

Launching Garden Earth in Japan

I am in Japan for the launch of my book, Garden Earth in Japanese. It is published by Doyosha, a smaller publisher.

JONA, Japan Organic & Natural Foods Association is my host here and have made a very intensive visit program. The first day brought us two two organic farms, a cooperativa, a wholesaler, the Ministry of Agriculture and JICA, the Japan public development agency.

Ageing farmers is a very big problem in Japan (see my earlier post Will there be farmers? about this global problem). Only some 5% of the farms are operated by people below 45 years. Paradoxically enough there is quite some land agriculture land abandoned in Japan which seems strange in a country with so little agriculture land and the lowest food self-sufficiency in the world (of the bigger countries at least). This seems to have many reasons, among others, global specialization and competition, the small scale of Japanese farms combined with zoning and other regulations making it hard to consolidate farms into larger units, and the aging farmers that continue to own the land, but stopped managing it.

The government is now supporting young farmers with subsidies in the range of JPY1.5 million per farmer and year for five years. Many of these young farmers go for organic farming, and the Sanbu-Yasai Cooperative has a special program to find land and train young organic farms. A great initiative!

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