Weeding in the hot summer leads to the harvest in autumn as wisdom in the olden days.
Though Shonai plain is located in the Tohoku district, which is in the northern part of Japan, the temperature reaches 30 degrees Celsius in the beginning of July. In this season, the paddy field is full of green plants; the rice grow but so do the weeds.
In the 15 generations that followed this farmer family, the representative of the current generation continues to grow rice such as “Tsuya Hime”, “Koshi Hikari” and “Sasa Nishiki” without the use of any agricultural chemicals such as weedicide, moreover, without the use of chemical fertilizers. Despite the many difficulties and challenges, he overcame obstacles and remained steadfast, persevered with unfazed endurance and his unrestrained innate character. He has a track record of his achievements in organic farming and has produced the finest quality of rice. So we are businessmen who are determined to support farmers like him and tackle various issues with our modest efforts.
Because of the absence of weedicides, weeding the paddy is laborious. Here, the farmer and his son use a weeding machine and push the machine to weed the rice field. Weeding is done by hand for spaces between rhizomes that cannot be reached by the machine. When the weeds are strong, it would take 2 people to weed a 10 are paddy field in 3 days.
I have heard from farmers of an old saying that numerous footprints in the paddy field surpasses fertilizers. This means that as the farmer weeds the paddy, he treads on the soil and repeatedly stomps his feet, making the field fertile and produce a lot of rice. That being said, the father and son weeding the paddy has more importantly tilled the soil by supplying nitrogen and accelerating the growth and ripening of the rice.
This saying appears in an old book “Nogyo Zensho” (a complete book of agriculture) that was issued in the Edo period (refer to the Iwanami Bunko “Nogyo Zensho p.65, Volume 1 Chapter 5 “Spade Technique”)
The book contains a proverb which explains that if you cultivate the soil well when the rice is growing, you will have a lot of good ripening rice. You do not need to throw away unripe rice as feed for dogs, so dogs will starve to death. The book explains in detail how to cultivate the soil.
Both animals and plants have protein and protein is made from nitrogen. We need nitrogen to grow good rice. Plants cannot absorb nitrogen in the air as it is. First, bacilli make nitrogenous compounds from nitrogen, then plants can finally absorb them in this form. In a paddy field, the nitrogenous compounds accumulate on the surface layer of the soil. By plowing the paddy fields, the compounds enter into the soil and the roots of the rice can easily absorb them. Recent research clearly shows this scientific fact.
A message to those who are successors of a baton
This next generation is growing strong, looking intently at his father’s back (learning from his father) who is the 15th generation of the farmer family. His mission is to achieve organic farming that his father started, to make it profitable and contribute to livelihood, to make theory and set a standard for the next successor. The son says he has no chance to eat the rice that he and his father grow. He only eats the rice that the rice sorting machine ejects as nonstandard. The spirit to value nonstandard rice is important as it is precious however it is a pity that his son does not know the taste of the rice they sell customers.
In May, there was a small event in a certain town in the Tokai district and they presented a rice tasting event for the public. They were asked to take a survey and the questionnaires came back with unanimous comments such as the rice was delicious and they wanted to eat it again. The son realized the public’s evaluation of his rice for the first time and was overjoyed. I hope this is the start toward a new agriculture.
We are not players of farming and have no experience in growing rice. Our support seems insufficient. Nevertheless, we are driven with a desire to serve the next generation with as much support as we can. The moment of passing the baton is coming and I have this impression when I see the paddy field this month.
2016 summer in Shonai plain
The rice is growing, so are people. A frog and a dragonfly seem to look at them with feigned ignorance.