This image shows a harvest scene in a Japanese mountain village called Tsumagoi, which is located in Gunma prefecture. The village boasts the highest production volume of cabbage in Japan. Benefiting from a cool climate in summer and improved accessibility to the Tokyo metropolitan area, Tsumagoi village developed as a supply point for cabbage delivered to urban markets after World War II. The Japanese government, as well as Gunma prefecture, increased arable land by reclaiming national forests. Today, the average size of a farm in Tsumagoi village is 4 ha; however, there are large-scale farms that reach 16 ha. Farmland expanded into the highlands and currently extends to elevated areas from 900 m to 1,400 m above sea level. The cabbage harvest season is July to October. In recent years, the harvest has often been delayed due to the effects of global warming. Cabbage cultivation is becoming increasingly mechanized; however, manpower is necessary for harvesting. It is difficult to secure seasonal labor for harvests due to the structure of Japan's labor market. Therefore, many farmers are increasingly dependent on foreign labor.
(Photograph & Explanation: Toshiaki NISHINO; August 22, 2015)
With rapid globalisation and urbanisation, urban agriculture is experiencing many changes, for instance, in the preferences of consumers, who require more food security. In many cities across the world, urban agriculture is also positioned for food production and community building. In Japan, interest in urban agriculture has grown steadily, supported by the enactment of an urban agriculture law in 2015. Urban agriculture studies have been a controversial topic of research since around the 2000s in many academic fields, including geography. However, there have been few studies on the relationship between agricultural management, or farmers, and urban residents, although capturing interactions among urban residents as consumers and intentions for consuming urban agricultural space are critical when considering the sustainability of urban agriculture. Interactions are explored between farms and urban residents in the context of diversified agricultural management based on a case study using Kodaira city in the Tokyo Metropolis. Because the area is one of the urban agricultural areas of the Tokyo Metropolis, where many independent farmers survive, Kodaira city is a suitable study area to explore the diversification of farming and communication with urban residents. Literature, such as previous studies, is analysed. Then, public survey data is analysed to illustrate the spatial distribution of agricultural management patterns and classify them. In addition to qualitative analysis from field research, interviews with case farmers reveal the decision making of farmers in adopting specific methods of agricultural management and interactions with urban residents. Hence, interactions between farmers and urban residents exist based on agricultural management in Kodaira city. The classification of interaction styles is based on features of the area in a definite pattern. Such interaction styles prevent excessive competition among farms, attract stable customers, and realise sustainable management. Finally, urban agriculture in Kodaira city is founded on interactions with urban residents through the diversification of agricultural management.
The background of the system of sales diversification activities related by farm households in large-scale upland farming areas in the Tokachi area, Hokkaido, is elucidated and evaluated. The focus is on farm households affiliated with farm management groups that are believed to engage in sales diversification activities, within the Tokachi Branch of Association of Small Business Entrepreneurs in Hokkaido. Farm households engage in sales diversification activities because they cannot expect a further increase in revenue from agricultural cooperatives, and there are no expectations of acquiring more farm land. Consequently, target farmers are those in the age group of 20 to 40 years, who are engaged in sales diversification activities. They mainly ship agricultural products to local farmers' markets and supermarkets in the Tokachi area. They have also made connections with processors and specialized trading companies to secure sales. Some have built processing plants and cafes in residential areas, as part of their sales diversification activities. Such sales diversification activities facilitate higher revenues for farm households. However, securing sales destinations and ensuring their continuity is an unstable factor. For this reason, securing stable earnings while balancing agricultural cooperative shipments and sales diversification activities will become an important subject in the future. Connections made among members, from belonging to a farm management group, are highlighted. Connections made with other industries that contribute toward sales diversification activities are also emphasized.
Traditional agricultural practice in the Saga plain was formerly a combination of paddy rice, which was the main crop, and wheat/barley, which was the secondary crop. However, when production adjustments to paddy rice started in the 1970s, the original agricultural practice was changed to a combination of paddy rice and a rotating crop of soybeans along with a secondary crop of wheat/barley. Further, since the 1970s, issues such as competition between agricultural land use and urban land use, income disparity between agricultural and non-agricultural employment, and a shortage of farming successors became serious, which in turn caused great difficulty in sustaining agriculture and farmland. Under such circumstances, farmers in the Saga plain started to develop rural community-based farming as a strategy to sustain agriculture and farmland, as well as to manage the harvesting and drying process of rice, wheat/barley, and soybean collaboratively. Consequently, the block rotation system of cultivating paddy rice and soybeans together with shared use of rice planting and harvesting machines progressed and agriculture and farmland that combined rice, wheat/barley, and soybeans in the region tended to survive. On the other hand, due to a lack of leadership, community cohesion, and full-time farmers, some rural community-based farms began to be converted into agricultural corporations as another strategy. This strategy was encouraged by a new national agricultural policy. There were also farmers who did not participate in rural community-based farming, and many of them were full-time farmers who functioned as certified farmers. Such full-time farmers have expanded the scale of managing arable land by purchasing and leasing farmland (paddy field) from part-time farmers, both inside and outside the region, with the intention of securing successors to carry on agriculture. Thus, large-scale rice farmers gradually amalgamated the paddy fields of part-time farmers and expanded the scale of agricultural management. There were two types of large-scale farmer—farmers maintaining relationships with rural community-based farming and agricultural cooperatives such as JA, and independent farmers who had a tendency to become agricultural corporations. The decision to become an agricultural corporation was largely influenced by several key factors including the existence of a successor to continue farming, managerial skills of business operators, and the level of the family workforce of farmers. In other words, as a result of securing successors, large-scale rice farmers could start businesses such as drying preparation facilities, and build their own sales networks. Further, in order to control substantial production costs, the family workforce was used for production, processing, clerical work, and sales promotions. As a result, agriculture in the Saga plain was supported by rural community-based farming, independent large-scale paddy farmers, and large-scale paddy farmers incorporated into agricultural organizations, and these divisions of the management strategy were based on the degree of agricultural labor and community bonding forces. A series of distinctive strategies largely contributed to the survival and development of agriculture and farmland in the Saga plain.
A sustainable system for chrysanthemum production is examined, focusing on a farmer's network on the Atsumi Peninsula. The Atsumi Peninsula, where Tahara City is located, is a leading agricultural area in Japan where the foundations for agricultural production were developed with the completion of the Toyogawa irrigation canal in 1968. Tahara City generates the largest agricultural income in Japan by municipality unit. Flowers and vegetables are at the center of agriculture production and the livestock industry is also healthy. The average age of agricultural workers is 59.8 years, and the average age of successors living together is 34.8 years, which is particularly young in Japan. Overall, 62.5% of commercial farm households have an agricultural income of more than 10 million yen; furthermore, 6.3% have an agricultural income of more than 50 million yen. Many farmers growing chrysanthemums in Tahara City belong to three teams reorganized by agricultural cooperatives in 2010: (1) Team STAR, (2) Team MAX, and (3) Team SKY. These teams are functional organizations planned according to the management situation of farmers, such as farmer's age, growing area, family labor, and future outlook. The three teams collaborate in a complementary way on market shipments to sell stable year-round quantities of high-quality chrysanthemums. This has raised the value of the chrysanthemum production area. It is evaluated that farmers enjoy benefits and incentives from belonging to agricultural cooperatives and teams, which also strengthens the cohesion of farmers. Moreover, as agricultural cooperatives have improved their shipping facilities and become more mechanized, farmers of Team MAX can ship chrysanthemums without packaging them at home. Reducing time and labor for shipping supports a further expansion of management scale. In addition, Tahara City has a high rate of full-time farmers, who work on technological innovations and management improvements on a daily basis. For this reason, there is an atmosphere that promotes teaching and learning new cultivation techniques and sharing information with neighborhood farmers and members of shipping organizations. Besides, farmers try to acquire advanced technologies and improve quality by holding informal study sessions on specific technologies. The efforts and cooperation of farmers create numerous benefits, raise the level of chrysanthemum production, and support the development of regional agriculture.
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.
The conditions required to maintain the techniques and standards used by farmers who fatten Japanese black cattle to produce Maesawa beef, a high-grade Wagyu meat, in Oshu City, Iwate Prefecture, are elucidated. To determine the reproduction mechanism of Maesawa beef, the relationship between labor productivity of fattening farmers and transformations effected in the strains of feeder cattle purchased are investigated, as well feeding methods since the 1990s. The results are summarized as follows:
1. Daily sales per man-day (labor productivity) of Maesawa beef-producing farmers in 1994 can be classified into four types: Type Ia (large-sized, intensive farming enterprises achieving the highest productivity); Type Ib (large- and medium-sized farm businesses engaged in pluriactivity); Type II (full-time farm households retaining two or more workers); and, Type III (medium- and small-sized farms emphasizing the fattening of beef cows).
2. Until the 1990s, Maesawa beef-producing farmers notably tended to purchase feeder cattle, the sires of which belonged to the Tajiri strain, which is endowed with a higher marbling score. However, toward the end of the 1990s, emphasis shifted to gains in the dressed weight of fattened cattle, and farmers began to select bull strains such as Kedaka and Fujiyoshi, which yielded a combination of superior meat quality and a higher average daily gain. The ratio of feeder cattle born and bred in Maesawa District as fattened cattle to those branded Maesawa beef was 1:3. To maintain the locally integrated nature of Maesawa beef production throughout the life cycle, from calves to fattened cattle, Oshu City provided subsidies to fattening farmers who purchased feeder cattle born within the city and to breeding farmers who reserved calves born on their own farms. Recently, some producers of Maesawa beef have entered the breeding business.
3. Knowledge of the self-mixing of individual feeds is only communicated through the generations on family farms, and this specialist know-how helps to maintain higher grades of meat quality. In addition, fattening farmers try to share data on the composition of their feeding rations through organized activities of Iwate Furusato agricultural cooperatives to raise the jomono rate, which is the proportion of dressed carcasses rated Grade 4 or Grade 5. Since the middle-2000s, researchers also observed the increasing use of compound feeds as replacements for self-mixed feeds and the utilization of rolled bales of rice straw to substitute for pole rack-drying straw.
Through such changes in the selection of feeder cattle and feed acquisition, Maesawa beef has gained a high market value over the last 25 years. Some surveyed farmers had increased labor productivity by shortening the fattening period and reducing the amount of labor required for feeding.
Sustainable factors of large-scale vegetable production in Tsumagoi Village, a mountain village in Japan, are clarified. Tsumagoi Village is located about 150 km north of the capital, Tokyo. Most of its agricultural settlements are distributed from 800 m to 1,000 m above sea level, although the highest altitude of agricultural land is 1,400 m above sea level. The village's main industry, cabbage production, started before World War II and grew into the largest cabbage production resource in Japan after the war. There are three main reasons for Tsumagoi Village's success in cabbage production. The first is government agricultural policies. After World War II, Japan's population increased dramatically, and food supplies in urban areas became unstable. Tokyo and Yokohama City designated Tsumagoi Village as a stable source for vegetables. The government converted vast forests into agricultural farmland, which became the foundation for cabbage production in the village. Cultivation in Tsumagoi Village increased gradually; in the late 1970s, the average plot of land for most farmers was 4.5 ha but, in recent years, it has not been uncommon for farmers to cultivate plots that exceed 10 ha. The second is the development of distribution channels in the form of agricultural cooperatives. The Tsumagoi Village Agricultural Cooperative is part of Japan's nationwide distribution network, which was established specifically to supply large quantities of cabbage to Japan's national market. In addition to these cooperative networks, some farmers also contracted directly with brokers to establish their own distribution channels. The third is stable farming management. The incomes of large farms in Tsumagoi Village today are much higher than those of farms in other parts of Japan. High agricultural income has long been an incentive for attracting successors, and many young farmers have grown up involved in cabbage production and distribution. In recent years, however, Tsumagoi's farms have been unable to secure enough workers for the cabbage harvest; most turn to the government's foreign technical training system.
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.
One of the greatest problems of contemporary agriculture in Japan is how to maintain and develop food production. Strategies for sustaining and developing agriculture in Japan are discussed based on 10 previous sample studies that address sustainable farm management representing each district of Japan. The sample studies are on urban agriculture in the western suburbs of Tokyo, rice farming in Hokuriku, field crop farming in Tokachi, double cropping with rice and field crops in Saga, greenhouse farming in Atsumi, fruit farming in Kofu, high-quality beef production in Oshu City, combining vegetable growing with its processing and shipping in Akagi, cabbage growing in Asama, and combining vegetable growing and sales at farm product shops in Hiruzen. The main elements of strategies for sustainable farm management are (1) ensuring capable farm operators, their successors, and farm laborers, (2) building up rational farm management by promoting large-scale or intensified farm operation with advanced technology, machines, and facilities, (3) keeping stable income sources including those both from farm products and non-farm jobs, (4) establishing multiple channels for shipping farm products, and (5) forming networks between producers and consumers. The previous sample studies suggest that locational, physical, economic, social, cultural, and political conditions play an important role in the sustainable development of agriculture and rural regions. Among these, accessibility to large cities, which are the main markets for farm products, favorable physical conditions for farm production, and suitable political conditions are important. Capable and good farm operators establishing efficient farm management and leading rural communities are especially needed to maintain and develop agriculture utilizing their locational and physical conditions. We need to respond to regional differences in order to identify sustainable and viable types of agriculture in Japan.