Our first year on the farm

We are an 18 acre organic farm located just west of Seymour, MO, in the middle of an Amish community. We started farming and studying organic agriculture in Japan. I (Mark) met Kumiko while living in Niigata, one of the main rice and sake producing areas of northern Japan in 1997. We married in 1999 and moved to a small town at the foot of the snowy mountains where we began part-time farming, sake making in the winter, and making traditional fermented foods.

Farming (and eating!) in Japan was a great experience. Japanese small-scale production techniques are both efficient and beautiful. During that time, I became acquainted with the work of Masanobu Fukuoka (“The One Straw Revolution”). Although I never got a chance to meet him before he passed away, I did become acquainted with several of his students and followers.

When we moved back to the U.S. in 2009, we knew that we wanted to farm and to introduce Japanese local food culture to the U.S.

This season we will be growing over 50 varieties of traditional Japanese and other Asian vegetables, including edamame, daikon radish, turnips, beans, tomatoes, okra, mustard greens, salad greens, herbs, eggplant, burdock, carrots, sesame, cabbage, and more. We will also be experimenting with edible bamboo, ginger, rice, and maitake (“hen of the woods”) mushrooms.

Edamame will still be our main crop this year. We are expanding our edamame production from 1 to 2 acres, and tripling the number of varieties grown. We will be trying a number of different cultivation and production techniques in an effort to find what best fits our place.

At the end of January, we added a 96x30 hoophouse to the farm to begin year round production. We will be starting early edamame seedlings, planting early cool weather crops, and growing tomatoes and cucumbers as warm weather crops.

During the spring and summer, we want to install an inspected kitchen facility, allowing us to process our produce (frozen edamame) and produce traditional fermented Asian foods for sale.

This spring, we will also start planting permanent, tiered windblocks around property. Our goal this year is to plant 500 trees and bushes. We are also looking into ways to add solar energy to our farm.

This is our first full year on this new farm in (for us) a new country and climate. Besides planning, building, and cleaning, we’ve also been doing a lot of walking our property this winter, getting to know the land, watching and taking notes. We have many ideas from reading, talking, and our experiences in Japan, but finally it is only in cooperation with the soil that our farming will succeed.

We are inspired by Fukuoka’s words, "The question is not what to grow here, but what grows here." It is a simple question but the answer will take years to work out.

Farming is a song of praise, already in progress, to which we strive to humbly add our voices. The sparrow sings more beautifully than any human; likewise, nature is a better farmer than we can ever be.

Farming at our place means hard work, dedication, hard work, vision, hard work, and careful observation. It also includes devotion, philosophy, and poetry. We strive to cultivate patience, humility, modesty, and thankfulness in the work we do.

It’s going to be a busy year, and we are looking forward to it!