Chris: Hello everyone. Chris from blue belt life here. Today on “Meet the Farmers” we have Aki-san from the Ginza Farmers Market. Aki-san, hello!
Chris: thanks always for your delicious offerings.
Aki: Thank you!
Chris: You mainly sell pesticide-free produce. How long have you been doing this?
Aki: Almost 4 years now.
Chris: Did you start at the Ginza Farmers Market?
Aki: No, I started at another market. But around the same time I also started here.
Chris: What kind of goods do you carry?
Aki: Mainly pesticide-free organic vegetables.
Chris: Which farms do you order from?
Aki: I have arrangements with four farms currently – in Gifu-ken, Nagano-ken, Hokkaido, and Akita.
Chris: How did you find and select these?
Aki: Through a college professor contact of mine. He studied and teaches microbiology, and grows vegetables without the use of any chemicals. He then introduced me to his students at other farms.
Chris: Can you tell us about the life of a farmer?
Aki: Sure, it’s 365 days a year, without holiday. Working from early morning until late at night, really no rest. And since they don’t use chemicals, they weed by hand. One-by-one they pull them out. So it takes a lot of time and effort.
Chris: And do you visit these farms very often?
Aki: Yes, I go often. Two months ago I went to Akita to help at the rice farm, and last month I went to Hokkaido to help at the farm that grows this beautiful kale.
Chris: Depending on the time of year, can your customers also join you on your farm visits?
Aki: Yes they can!
Chris: That’s right, this year I went to help at Potential Farm in Takayama. It was lots of fun and a great experience. If you are interested, definitely speak with Aki here.
Aki: Yes, any time.
Chris: Your produce is all pesticide-free, correct?
Aki: Yes, completely free from the use of chemicals.
Chris: What is the difference between this and “organic”?
Aki-san: People generally think of pesticide-free and organic as equivalent, but in reality they aren’t the same, at least in Japan right now.
Chris: Right, in Japan “organic” growers can still use certain pesticides, correct?
Aki: Yes, “Organic” vegetables can still use 30 approved varieties of pesticide, so in general organic is not chemical-free. But all of the growers I distribute for have not used any chemical pesticides or fertilizers for 20 years.
Chris: Do you think this type of farming is sustainable?
Aki: Yes, I think it is. But it is very work-intensive so out of all the vegetables sold in Japan today only .2% of them are made in this way. The other 99.8% use chemical pesticides and fertilizers. So because it is so difficult to produce in this manner there aren’t as many people willing to do it, but I still think it is sustainable.
Chris: Going forward, what is your hope for this market and your business?
Aki: Well, the taste and quality is completely different so I hope lots of people come out to try and find out for themselves.
Chris: Do you have any final thoughts or message for your customers?
Aki: Yes – every Saturday and Sunday in Yurakucho this “Kotsuu Kaikan Market” (Ginza Farmers Market) is open for business. Everything here is top quality and delicious. Come out and try for yourself next weekend!
Chris: That’s right, chemical-free vegetables, rice, free range organic eggs – the taste is a world away from standard supermarket varieties. Thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to speak with us.
Aki: Thank you very much.