As we arrived at Frostpia Farm on October 21st, we were greeted by Yoshinori Kaneko, smiling in a baseball cap. He informed us that due to our late arrival he would have to slip away at some point during our tour to take care of other business. It turns out that his other appointment was with messengers from the Emperor who came to apologize in person for the fact that the Emperor was unable to come to the farm as he had planned. Imagining that the Emperor does not make many farm visits, it was apparent that Kaneko-san is somewhat of a celebrity farmer in Japan at the moment. Two hours later we understood why.
We began with Kaneko-san’s station wagon. He held up two small bottle of amber liquid and explained that this was the vegetable oil that he used to fuel his car. Opening up the hood, he showed us how his car runs on the oil from the farm. Sam was amused that he drives the same car with biodiesel back home in California.
Kaneko-san showed us how he made heating fuel from manure with a simple diagram. Methane from an underground tank powered a radiant heating system installed in the floor of his house. We learned that two dairy cows were required for a family of four. And two cows he had. Along with ducks, chickens, and a number of cats. He led us through his garden and we were amazed at how many different things he was growing — okra, peppers, eggplant, grapes, onions, and persimmons.
One of the most incredible things we saw on our tour were the boxes of food that Kaneko-san and his family had packed for other farmers in Japan who are now unable to feed their family because of the radiation present on their own farms. We were informed that they send these boxes of food out to the families and they can pay what they can for them, a sliding scale CSA of sorts. We were touched by this simple act of generosity, enabling another to fulfill the basic human need to feed themselves.
Photo of Yoshinori Kaneko by Sasha Wizansky
This is only one of many examples that we have witnessed since we have been here that demonstrate the degree to which the Japanese people are lending a hand to those in need.