On September 27 and 28 in 2020, ECOPLUS organized a workshop on harvesting organic rice as a part of “ABC in a rice paddy” in Tochitsubo village, Minamiuonuma , Nigata. Due to the situation of COVID-19, we conducted it as a voluntary participating event without overnight stay unlike the usual workshops. Through 2 days, 24 people participated in this event on the non-chemical rice paddy.
Under the very wet weather condition, participants needed to wear rain gears and boots. From Mr. FUEKI Akira who has been taking care of the rice paddies, we learned how to use sickles to harvest rice and the way to tie harvested rice with rice straw. His tying skill was eye-opening and it was just like magic.
We started harvesting….however, it did not go so easily! It was actually difficult to cut all the stems of rice with sickles clearly. Tying the harvested one with rice straw was another problem because it easily becomes loose if you don’t tie it correctly. In addition to this hard situation, the paddy field, which became bottomless swamp due to the rain, caught our legs even up to our knees and didn’t let it go. What you will see if you fall on the ground is your entire body covered with dirt. I assume this was the biggest point that made us suffer the most this time.
As the time went, a sense of solidarity was created among the participants somehow; automatically we set the bluesheets near each of us as a halfway point to collect the harvest sheaf of rice so that we could minimize the walking distance on the muddy ground. Being in the line and doing a relay the sheaf of rice was also helpful in putting them on the rack to dry them easily. The sheaves of rice that were tied tightly didn’t get loosened even if it was treated roughly a little bit.
The creatures living in the paddy were an oasis for us having hard time due to working in a muddy and wet condition. “Schlegel’s Green Tree Frog” was an especially popular star among us. Even the girls who do not touch the insects usually were rubbing the frog who have such an adorable look of typical frog.
We could only see these creatures because it was on the paddy field without any pesticide and working with our own hands but not by the machine.
By the lunch time of the second day, the paddy field which has the size of 1,400㎡ was cleared completely and the rice were all hanged on the drying rack. That scenery was just so lovely to see and I could not help to have an image of newly harvested rice in my mind. Some of the participants made their minds saying “I want to experience planting rice next year but not only harvesting” I wonder what the liquid going down on the face was. Was it the rain water, sweat, or the tears? A sense of accomplishment was filling our mind at the end. Of course, muscle pain didn’t forget to suffer us the next morning though….! (reported by FUKUI Tomoyuki, translated by HASUMI Chigira)
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.”
In the rice paddies in Tochikubo village, Minami-Uonuma, Niigata, which is the heartland of famous Koshi-Hikari-Rice, ears of rice are getting ripped. With less sun shines since mid-August, the progress is bit late but rice paddies are now having beautiful yellowish color. We will conduct harvesting workshop on 13-14 Oct.
Program Fee including lunch on day 2 and insurance; 5,000 JPY. Student discount, 50%; Children under 6 years old, lunch fee and insurance only. Gathering spot; JR Shiozawa Station of Joetsu Line Accommodations; Local Inn, dormitory rooms male/female separated; 7.500 JPY including dinner/breakfast Compliment; 2 kg of harvested rice after sun-dried process.
ECOPLUS held organic rice farming workshop called “Tanbo no I-ro-ha” or “ABC in a rice paddy,” on 8-9 June, 2019 at Tochikubo village in Niigata, Japan, having 35 students from Waseda University in Tokyo.
Since we had very limited rain falls in May, some areas of rice paddies dried up and it helped weeds to grow seriously specially at our non-chemical, totally organic paddies. Students waled into the paddy with bare feet and used fully opened hands like as rakes to clear weeds.
Paddies were filled by water thanks to the rain since Friday evening but in most of the paddies the soil was so solid because of long dry condition that it was difficult to push fingers in the soil and we needed to pull out each weeds. Started the work at 9 am on Sunday, it took 4 hours and more to finish two rice paddies which size is over 1,000 square meters.
Beside weeding in rice paddies, villagers gave them lectures, and a specialist conducted nature tour. Through those students had a chance to feel the relationship between nature, life and community. They left comments like, “I strongly leant the true meaning of to live”, “I understood the hardship of farming”, “I should have more appreciation on food”.
ECOPLUS hosted a group of students from University of Michigan from 19 to 20 May in Minami-Uonuma for their learning on the relation with environment, life and culture through experiencing rice planting, weaving and other activities.
On 19th, they strolled around the village of Tochikubo which is located on the slope of around 500 meters elevation. They were deeply impressed by the scenery of mountains covered by white snow and young green, saying “this land might be so expensive.” They also encountered an old lady who was drying mountain vegetable called “Zenmai.”
On 20th, they experienced traditional rice planting by hands. They screamed a bit while they put their bare feet in the muddy soil of the paddy but later they acquired how to plant young seedlings in line and they finished the work in three hours.
On the last day, 21st, they came back to the city area, “Shiozawa,” to learn about the local ramie cloth called “Echigo-Zyofu,” which has over a thousand year history. Specialists from Echigo-Jofu technique preservation association demonstrated how to get fibers fro the skin of the plant, how to dye the yarn for patterns, and how to weave. Some of the students experienced actual works by their hands.
Through the three-day stay, they seem to deepen the understanding on the relation with life and nature, like getting fuels from the forest, drinking water from the spring, making the water system running around all the terraced rice paddies.
On 26 and 27 May, ECOPLUS conducted “a weekend farming workshop; rice planting” in Tochikubo village in Niigata Japan. Under the limitation of lodging space, we had eight participants from Niigata city and Metropolitan area.
We had water shortage caused by extremely small snow in previous winter in 2016, and low temperature and wet condition in 2017. This year we had enough snow as same as usual years but temperatures went up after March and it melted snow substantially. Farmers are worrying again the shortage of water.
On Saturday, we started planting seedlings in a smaller paddy which has around 800 square meters. Those paddies which have been growing rice without any chemical materials, the area was filled with so many creatures, like tadpoles, dragonflies and butterflies.
Thanks to the strong sunshine, surface of the mud is very warm. We set 4-6 seedlings in one position 1 centimeter under the surface.
One of the participants was came from Thailand but she was from the central part of big city, Bangkok. She and his Japanese husband were so good at planting works although it was the first time for them.
At the dinner so many dishes using wild vegetables just harvested by the chef from their hills were appeared. Some were boiled and mixed with sesame source or vinegar source, some were fried as “Templa”. We enjoyed the gorgeousness of the life in the mountain.
It was also very nice weather on Sunday and one of the participants succeeded to see the beautiful sunrise at 4 o’clock in the morning.
After finishing rice planting using one hour and so, we had open air lecture from Mr. FUEKI Akira, a veteran farmer. He explained that in old days when the paddies were much smaller and narrow, they conducted rice plantings one paddy to next one moving water from upper paddy to lower one. He also taught that normally 20 pesticides, weed killers or other chemicals were used for rice growing in one season but for this totally organic rice paddy he uses no chemicals. Because of this, he needs to weed by hands at least three times before harvest in each paddies.