ECOPLUS conducted workshops on weeding in our non-chemical rice paddy in the weekend of June 20 and 27-28 in Tochikubo village at Minamiuonuma, Niigata, Japan. In order to avoid the risks on COVID-19, the workshop, used to be conducted for two days staying in an inn in the village, was changed into one-day program. For the there days, in total 16 persons were gathered and enjoyed the work surrounded by the calls of Ruddy Kingfisher and Gray-faced buzzard.
In those rice paddies, farmers have not been using chemicals for over 15 years. So weeds are also very healthy. Specially “Inu-Bie” or Japanese millet, is so similar to rice that it was so difficult to identify which is which in the field.
Mr. FUEKI Akira, the chief of Tochikubo Panorama Farm taught us that rice has small fluffs surrounding the base of each leaf. So, we were concentrating our eyes very close to those plants before each weeding actions.
Some days before our works, farmers used special tool called “Taguruma,” which has metal rotating claws. So, weeds along the one side were already taken or less but another side was very congested with weeds.
Weeds are grown as same as rice, we need to use all fingers pushed deep into the mud then pull out the weeds with roots. Keeping the bottom very low in the paddy during the work for more than one hour was quite tough for all of us.
Many of participants from Tokyo area repeated that “I never imagined it needs such hard work to grow rice organiclally.” Some university students, once said “I was doing football fo long years so I am confident on my physical strangeness,” complained of back pain.
While weeding, we identified so many dragonflies were emerging on the leaves of young rice. Some are totally transparent like a glassworks. All of us recognized the richness of the nature in the organic environment.
ECOPLUS conducted rice planting workshop on May 23, 2020, at Tochikubo village, Minamiuonuma, Niigata. Considering national emergency on COVID-19 situation, only Niigata locals joined the program although every year many participants from metropolitan area joined the program.
Total nine participants from university students to aged local ex-farmer stepped into the rice paddy with bare feet feeling warmed soft soil. We used old wooden framed to make marks on the soil so that young seedlings could be sit on each crossing section.
Ecoplus conducted rice harvesting workshop on Oct. 13-14, 2019, at Tochikubo village, Minamiuonuma, Niigata. Due to the slow growth of rice in this year, we once postponedthe schedule one week and caused by typhoon #19, or “Hagibis,” we set the workshop one day later. Students and adults from metropolitan area were struggled to come struggling confused train and highway networks. At the end seven participants succeeded to participate the program.
With the heavy rain by the typhoon, the rice paddies was covered by an inch or two of water. It was quite tough condition although most of rice were not knocked down by the wind. In such condition, a high school boy, who experienced the work first time, learned and acquired how to cut straws and to bind those by a year old straws.
In the rice paddy, no chemical pesticides nor weed killers has been used for over ten years. Only organic fertilizer has been used. Because of such efforts, many weeds were covering the ground and many insects were hopping around. Sheaves of rice were hung along the bars called “Haza,” for sun dry for around 10 days. Through this, participants experienced the way of traditional rice production of the area until some decades ago.
Participants left comments like “Accumulating the experience for long years, I am still feeling that how difficult to make food is, and how important to have harmonious relation with the nature is. ” “I identified so many knowledges embedded in the harvesting works and I felt the tick accumulations of knowledge for long years.”