The other day, I visited the home of a farmer whom I met at a farmer’s marche held in the city of Tsuruoka in Yamagata prefecture. After serving the guests’ breakfast, the housewife set several bags of what looked like about 5 kg. of rice and stuck labels with the name of the farm and information about the content of the bag. Then the farmer polished the rice with his own machine and put it into the bags prepared by his wife, loaded the bags on a light truck and started to deliver them to his customers’ homes. This is the routine of a farmer who grows and sells rice independently, without the support of an association and its sales force.
He said he delivers rice on a daily basis throughout the year. Today, I trailed behind his truck and followed him to Niigata station. He got down, smiled, shook my hand and went off to deliver rice in the town.
His livelihood is to deliver 5 kg bag of rice to each customer who understands his endeavor. This is the opposite of what big rice producers do by harvesting and mass producing. Will the system which provides enough calories for consumers at a low price be a system that offers the necessary calories to consumers in the next 100 years? This was my first trip to Niigata and I thought about this.
Winter is approaching in Shonai region.
Well, look at the Shonai plain. It is about 10 days before the Niigata trip. The representative of the farm silently and steadily make arrangements to deliver rice by himself. The farmer usually appears adventurous, optimistic and would deal with things as they come but today, he was quiet and looked nervous. This was the first time I saw him like this.
I suppose he was just in the middle of some major business deals with customers and was preparing to transport the rice. These are tasks that need to be synchronized like the rhythm of a baton passed from the rice field to another business. I imagine he is using a different nerve of his brain than the nerve he uses in the rice field. This is a task that only the representative can do.
The representative took over the rice business from his father, who used to sell rice through the association. He, unlike his father, decided to sell rice on his own, without the association’s support. In spite of the difficulties, he continued selling. Fortunately, his rice is known by everyone (buyers and cooks) to be excellent and delicious. This is his own style of selling, not learned from his father.
Because of this, he is burdened with the responsibility of running the business and meeting the needs of the clients, estimating the cost, setting the price, ensuring the quality and quantity of the orders and ensuring delivery dates are met. This deal gives financial stability to the business and is vital for the farm’s future. He must share these lessons with his key personnel and this will be his significant role. We’ve started to support product cost management of rice planting for the following year. I think farmers are proud of their clients and this pride must be the driving force behind their sales endeavor. He has confidence in himself and his achievements but he also feels the need to share his sales skills with his staff. The conflict between these two feelings generate a complicated color or atmosphere, which affects the air of his home, where more than 10 cats are gently standing.
The harvest is over in November and the temperature has dropped to around 10 degrees Celsius during this month and under five degrees at the end of November. Though the town has a lot of fields and you can see traces of autumn before winter approaches, this will soon change to one of the most intense towns where a blizzard and a violent cold wind blows and the snow starts building up.