The Farmers of Ohara

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Ohara is a small farming town located north of Kyoto. The town is quite and serene, with occasional tourists visiting the famous temple called the Sanzen-in Temple. If I were not been told what lies beneath its pristine facet, I would pay very little attention to this place.

My friend Daisuke actually has a friend who stays in Ohara with her husband. Graduated from university, the couple were actively involved in environmental activism before they moved to Ohara and practice organic farming. My trip to Ohara started with meeting of Naito-san with Tami at the a local co-op market.

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The local market is owned by the Ohara community. The residents are entitled to buy shares in the co-op which is setup to run the market business. It is a non-profit establishment with 60% of its shareholders are farmers of Ohara. 90% of the sales actually go back to the producers.

Stepping into the market is a was a astonishing experience. It’s clean, comfy, and filled with friendliness of the shopkeepers. Nothing can really beat the neighborhood shopping experience of this kind. I felt close to the producers of every single agriculture products because the producers are highlighted in the market, I actually know who planted the cabbages, carrots, rice, and who made the rice cakes, bentos and donuts. Agricultural produce are arranged according to the producers. Pictures and profile of the producers are displayed right next to the products.

There are about 100 farmers registered with the co-op. but only less than 10% are organic producers certified by JAS Organic Certification. However, farmers are trying to be more environmentally friendly by pledging not to use chemicals in the production process.

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After the market, we moved on to Tami’s organic farm. The land area of each farm was relatively small compared to what I see back home in Malaysia. Large scale mass produced food is definitely not the trend here. While many towns and villages in Japan are suffering from depopulation, Tami and husband are one of the pioneers who helped to reverse that process and showed that it is possible and viable to do so. They were the first couple to move out of the city and embrace the new lifestyle which is slowly becoming a trend here in Ohara. To the farmers of Ohara, I would like to sincerely say “Ganbate!” to the farmers of Ohara for making alternative livelihood possible in a increasing urbanize world and also inspired others to follow their footsteps to go back to basics of life.

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