Journal of Geography (Chigaku Zasshi)
Online ISSN : 1884-0884
Print ISSN : 0022-135X
ISSN-L : 0022-135X
Short Article
Sustainability of Upland Agriculture in Okayama Prefecture: A Case Study on a Farmers' Market in Kawakami Area, Maniwa City
Takayuki OISHI
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2019 Volume 128 Issue 2 Pages 323-335


 In Japan, farmers' markets are important to small-scale farmers from a variety of perspectives; for example, farmers' markets guarantee a route to market and offer a sense of purpose to aging farmers. Farmers' markets are also important for farmers delivering their goods to market. The environment surrounding farmers using the markets is also important. For example, it is thought that getting advice from a certain farmer or seeing how goods are delivered can determine the means of delivery of other farmers. Moreover, the relationships between farmers and farming cooperatives do not only focus on what goods they bring to market, but also on other considerations including the diffusion of new crops among farmers and guidance on cultivation. The survival strategies of small-scale farmers in the Hiruzen region of Okayama Prefecture are examined, focusing on the management styles of farmers who deliver their produce to farmers' markets and the roles played by farming cooperatives and related organizations concerning the markets. The Hiruzen region examined is a upland rural area located in the north of Okayama Prefecture. The principal industries are agriculture and tourism. In terms of agriculture, the Hiruzen region is the largest producer of highland vegetables, such as daikon and cabbage. The daikon produced in the region is popularly known as Hiruzen Daikon, and is primarily delivered to markets in the Kansai area. As in other regions, agriculture in the Hiruzen region is facing a drop in the number of farmers because of aging, as well as competition with other regions, and is generally divided between large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers. Meanwhile, in terms of tourism, the Hiruzen region has been famous since the era of rapid growth for having the largest highland resort in Western Japan. However, group travel to the region has been declining since the 1990s with the end of an asset inflation-led economic boom. In 1992, a semi-public organization, made up at the time of Kawakami Village, farming cooperatives, and dairy farming cooperatives, set up a farmers' market as a tourism initiative designed to vitalize agriculture. The survey method consisted of oral interviews with farmers delivering their goods to the farmers' market. Specifically, they were asked how they managed their farms, the farm produce they delivered to market, opportunities to introduce farm produce, and their relationships with other farmers. Moreover, oral interviews were also conducted with managers of the farmers' market and members of farming cooperatives about their relationships with various farmers. The results reveal how links with neighboring farmers play an important role when farmers introduce farm produce. This is in contrast to previous studies that suggest farmers' markets are not places for exchanges among farmers. Furthermore, close links among farmers raise the issue of concentration on deliverables. However, this issue is being resolved through the establishment of mechanisms to distribute farm produce across large areas. Moreover, agricultural cooperatives focus on giving guidance and diffusing new crops among small-scale farmers, having become the principal reason why small-scale farmers continue to operate. Current operations of agricultural cooperatives suggest that agriculture in the Hiruzen region is being preserved.

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