Journal of Geography (Chigaku Zasshi)
Online ISSN : 1884-0884
Print ISSN : 0022-135X
ISSN-L : 0022-135X
Original Articles
Sustainability of Fruit Farming in the Kofu Basin, Central Japan
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2019 Volume 128 Issue 2 Pages 255-276


 Using a sample village in the southeastern part of the Kofu Basin in Yamanashi Prefecture, Central Japan, the characteristics of fruit farming and its sustainability are studied through an analysis of farm management. There were 68 households in the sample village, 44 of which were engaged in farming in 2017. Traditional rice farming and silkworm production were replaced by peach and grape growing in the mid-1960s and reached peak productivity in the 1990s. Full-time farmers could enjoy high profits and elderly or part-time farmers could also generate sufficient household income to live comfortably. Although the profitability of fruit growing has decreased slightly since then, even at present most full-time farmers receive a large income from fruit growing. Based on the structure of the farming workforce comprising family members and their main sources of income, 44 farm households are classified as full-time farmers, former salaried-workers-turned-farmers, part-time farmers, or elderly farmers. There are 17 full-time farmer households with at least two family members involved in farming. They receive a large income from shipping their farm products directly to supermarkets, hotels, consumer cooperatives, contractors, or individual customers by courier. Nine former salaried-workers-turned-farmer households are managed by a husband who retired from a full-time urban job and his wife. In addition, there are seven part-time farmer and 11 elderly farmer households. The former salaried-workers-turned farmer, part-time farmer and elderly farmer households with a declining labor base ship their fruit to market through an agricultural cooperative. The convenience of the agricultural cooperative is important in supporting the survival of fruit farming. The increase in the size of operations of full-time farmer households is supported by land leased from other farmer households. The renting and leasing relationships between full-time and the other farmers help to promote fruit farming and to preserve the rural landscape in this area. Based on the field survey, the total number of farm households is estimated to decrease to 39 by 2027. These include 15 full-time farmer, 11 former salaried-workers-turned-farmer, five part-time farmer and eight elderly farmer households. The present situation of high-profit fruit farming may be maintained for another ten years. However, at that time most farmers will be at least in their late sixties, and if there are not enough successors, this area is facing the danger of a sudden collapse of fruit growing. Full-time farmer households will play an important role in sustaining fruit farming in this area, but at present only four of these households have two generations of family members involved in farming, and how to obtain young successors is currently a critical issue for them. In addition to the aforementioned, large-scale tenant fruit farms with talented operators and contracted laborers will be more important for sustaining fruit farming. The former salaried-workers-turned-farmer, part-time farmer and elderly farmer households will also be greatly valued in terms of preserving farming and the local community.

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© 2019 Tokyo Geographical Society
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