2009 Volume 82 Issue 1 Pages 14-30
The purpose of this study is to revisit the beneficial aspects of traditional Japanese integrated multiproduct farming by virtue of its effective use of land resources and agricultural byproducts. As a case study, this paper draws upon a form of multiproduct farming based on rice farming in Sakurai Village in the Saku Basin, Nagano Prefecture, practiced from the 1880s to the 1930s. Although rice cultivation was the major agricultural activity in Sakurai Village, in the 1880s the industry of sericulture was increasing, and by the 1920s it had overtaken rice in terms of production value. Subsequently, however, sericulture entered a period of stagnation due to falling silk cocoon prices, and as a consequence more farmers in the area turned to rice-carp culture (cultivating carp in paddies concurrently with rice). With the introduction of pig farming to the area, the 1930s saw the development of multiproduct farming system consisting of rice, silkworms, carp and pigs. Given that the average farm size per farming family in Sakurai Village was just 65 ares, rice-carp culture was an effective way to make a living from a limited amount of land. Not only was stocking carp in paddies beneficial to the growth of the rice plants themselves, but it cut down on the necessity of weeding. In addition, the silkworm pupae left over from silk production was fed to carp, rice bran to pigs, and barnyard manure became fertilizer for both rice paddies and mulberry fields. In short, this system of rice-based multiproduct farming enabled farmers in Sakurai Village in the 1930s to put small plots of farmland to very efficient use. It is evident that this system was based on the recycling of readily available resources, making efficient use of agricultural byproducts. This rice-based multiproduct system of farming likewise allowed the tenant farming family taken up in this study to actually turn profits, which is evidence that it was an effective means of increasing incomes for the peasantry.