Locally Grown Food and Soil
Sustainable and Circular Food System (Ikeda Town)
March 1st, 2017
by Yukiko Matsuoka

The majority of American farmland has been dominated by industrial farming, which is the system of chemically intensive food production. It was formerly hailed as an efficient solution that would enable a skyrocketing world population to feed itself. However, due to the heavy dependence on chemical inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, the impacts of industrial agriculture on the environment, public health, and local communities make it an unsustainable way to grow our food for the long term.

To the contrary, in Japan, people have lived with nature for a long time. And, Japan has a lot of mountains, giving us everything essential to life, such as water, food and wood. Ikeda Town (池田町) is a typical mountainous town in the southeastern of Fukui, more than 90% of which is covered with mountains. It is full of nature and rich in water resources. Local farmers have inherited their fields, as well as traditional farming methods, from generation to generation. They always thanks nature, believing that they makes their life by the grace of the fields and mountains and that they should not waste any natural resource.

Due to fertile land, abundant rainfall and a large temperature gap between day and night, Ikeda has a 4,000-year history in rice farming. Currently, rice are grown in about 85% of the total fields. Every early autumn, golden paddy rice fields are beautifully spreading out all over the town.

Local farmers have been trying to grow rice in more sustainable way. In 1995, the local research community began to study how to make better soil with compost while reducing chemical inputs in rice farming. Referring to the research, they have been growing rice in an environmentally-friendly way, requiring much less synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, since 2006. Because of its safety and tasty, rice produced in Ikeda is popular especially among health conscious consumers.

They also grow vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, taros and turnips, under the local organic standards and certification named “Organic, healthy, honest farming (ゆうき・げんき正直農業)”. The local producers’ cooperative “101 Takumi-no-kai (101匠の会)” sells those vegetables at a supermarket in central Fukui, which are very popular due to the freshness, safety and affordability. The total revenue is more than 100 million yen (0.89 million dollars) per year, which makes the local farmers more economically sustainable.

Moreover, Ikeda has been engaged in composting food waste since 2002. The local non-profit organization “Kankyo-U-Friends (環境Uフレンズ) collects household food waste in the town three times a week and delivers them to the composting facility “Agri Power-up Center (あぐりパワーアップセンター)” in Ikeda. Those food waste are mixed with cow manure and rice hulls and processed for about 100 days. Then, ripe compost “grown” at this facility is scattered over fields, which is effective to improve the soil.

Ikeda has successfully established the sustainable and circular food system. Local farmers plant, grow and harvest food and distribute them to consumers through various distribution channels. After local consumers eat food, they separate their food waste from other trash. And food waste are collected and processed at the composting facility. Then, compost is back to the soil in Ikeda. In terms of sustainability and circular economy, other cities and towns in and outside of Japan can learn a lot from Ikeda’s story.









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