Our Rice: Chosen with the Utmost Care with High Standards fromYamanami Farm in Niigata Prefecture
Starting an Agricultural Business with a Humanistic Approach
Niigata Prefecture in Japan has widespread and fertile soil. Coupled with fresh air and steady snowfall that brings pure and mineral-rich water to farmlands, it became a major rice-producing location with a long history. Although blessed with such natural environment, the agriculture business in Japan still faces numerous challenges. For example, the aging population of farmers and young people moving to the city because they are reluctant to join the sector have resulted in stagnation of agriculture as a whole. With hopes to making a bright outcome for traditional farming, in 1992 Mr Yamanami Ieki founded Yamanami Farm in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture as a full time farmer. In addition to employing more local residents and revitalizing the community, sustainability is also introduced to agriculture.
The Secret to Making Delicious Rice: Befriend the Rice Fields!
Now, Yamanami Farm has been passed on to Mr Yamanami Tsuyoshi, the son of Yamanami Ieki, who has taken up the role of company president working hard to grow excellent Japanese rice. Their farming techniques have kept up with new trends: leaning into the advantages from the natural environment and years of experience, as well as modern technology, their tasty rice have a full grain shape with a glistening shell.
According to company president Mr Yamanami, Yamanami Farm is located between the sacred Mt. Yone and Mt. Kurohime, in a village with access to a clear stream. Every year, snowmelt brings copious amount of pure irrigation water for the farmland. To make rice grow strongly, they start from the beginning and choose healthy and strong rice seedlings to be planted. Farmers only sow the best seeds, and the sprouting plants are arranged neatly on the beds for more organized tending in the future.
There is a saying in Japanese traditional farming sector, that between turning the soil and harvesting rice, there are eighty-eight steps to go through – “88 folds of labour and time” (八十八の手間). Yet in modern agriculture, farmers do utilize technology to assist the farming procedures. This not only shortens the process, but also ensures that the farmlands are more carefully tended to, which receives appropriate recovery and repair. True to their original vision, Yamanami Farm uses 50% less of pesticides and chemical fertilizers than traditional farms. It is extremely difficult to control the rice quality using environmentally sustainable methods, and Mr Yamanami stresses that one must befriend the crop. He shares, “Every day we observe the colour of the chaff, the shapes of the individual grains, the sizes, thickness and colours of the leaves, and add suitable fertilizers according to weather changes, so that the rice grows better.” At the same time, to reduce the use of weed killer, the farmers manually remove weeds from the rice field. Being care for in such a way, the rice crop they grow is fuller and shinier, as well as deeply fragrant and more sticky, tasting delectable when paired with all sorts of food.
When he hears that the rice he has grown with dedication and makes him proud is enjoyed across the seas by customers in Hong Kong, Mr Yamanami sincerely says “ありがとございます!” (Thank you!), and wishes that customers can fully savour the warmth of farmers’ labour.