Permaculture Mochizuki was set up in 2020 as a loose association in order to promote and spread: - regenerative farming practices specifically designed for the small-scale, low energy production of top-quality, high-value vegetables, herbs and cereals - permaculture land-management techniques highly-applicable to the satoyama environment of Nagano prefecture, Japan - permaculture social systems for facilitating access to land, distributing wealth, and encouraging self-sufficiency. Permaculture Mochizuki aims to also serve as a centre for: - seed exchanges - mutual help with setting up ecological and sustainable food production systems - the development of a non-political, alternative society - the sharing of all forms of documentation on and guides to all of the above.
Permaculture Mochizuki was set up in 2020 as a loose association in order to promote and spread: regenerative farming practices specifically designed for the small-scale, low energy production of top-quality, high-value vegetables, herbs and cereals; permaculture land-management techniques highly-applicable to the satoyama environment of Nagano prefecture, Japan; and permaculture social systems for facilitating access to land, distributing wealth, and encouraging self-sufficiency. Permaculture Mochizuki aims to also serve as a centre for: -seed exchanges -mutual help with setting up ecological and sustainable food production systems -the development of a non-political, alternative society -the sharing of all forms of documentation on and guides to all of the above The Site Situated on roughly one and a half hectares of former rice paddies and forest, the Permaculture Mochizuki Research Farm & Demonstration Site is spread out over roughly a dozen terraced fields and some four mountain slopes. Abandoned and unwanted due to relative distance from the valley below and unsuitability for modern-style industrial, large machine-based farming, the land was in poor shape: covered in seven foot tall wild grass, with the original water drains (installed when the terraces were rice paddies) totally full of roots and earth, their contents spilling into the fields, it was overrun with deer and other wild animals. By cutting all the grass and revealing the underlying terrain it was possible to come up with a design making full use of the peculiarities of the site, and to then settle on a standard size for market-garden style permanent beds, resulting in one hundred and eighty beds for vegetables and a further thirty five for perennial fruit and herbs. Two streams running through the property were also revealed and are now an integral part of the operation, providing both a source of water for the entire farm and a home for wild animals and plants. While most of the surrounding forest is deciduous trees, there are numerous bamboo groves: these serve as a reliable source of bamboo for building compost bins, training beans and making stakes. The Climate Located in the middle of Japan - at roughly the furthest point from the sea - the Permaculture Mochizuki Research Farm & Demonstration Site experiences summer temperatures as hot as anywhere else in the country, often reaching forty degrees. However, high altitude and low precipitation over the winter months makes for very low temperatures, so that over the course of the year the temperature difference can be as much as sixty degrees celsius. On one hand, this makes for a relatively short and frenetic growing season, on the other it kills off bugs and diseases and makes for a clean start every spring. Daytime and nighttime temperature differences are also quite distinct, making for tastier fruit and vegetables as well as affording welcome respite from the heat in midsummer. Production - Le Potager des Cerfs label In order to showcase the potential for permaculture techniques to produce high-value, high quality crops on a professional scale, a part of the farm - managed by Nick Sikorski on his own - grows a large selection of vegetables and herbs, mainly for sale to chefs under the Le Potager des Cerfs label. Production - Permaculture Mochizuki label To allow for a more collaborative style of farming, revolving around events teaching productive permaculture techniques, Permaculture Mochizuki grows a number of supplementary crops - Japanese wheat, spelt, rye and a selection of herbs - for sale under the Permaculture Mochizuki to local cafés and restaurants as well as in shops and to chefs in Tokyo. The crops & farming methods Dividing production between western-style (French heritage, but suitable to this high-altitude southern climate) vegetables, cereals and herbs one hand, and Japanese wild herbs (fuki, nobiru, sansho, shiitake, warabi, wasabi etc.) naturally growing in the mountain conditions on the other, the farm seeks to span both east and west. By using techniques unknown in the area (tarping, broadforking, mulching, composting, companion planting etc.) to treat very common local agricultural problems (weeds, soil compaction, flooding etc.), we have attracted a great deal of attention, both from older members of the local population and from young people moving into the area. All of the vegetables produced in the field are divided into ten separate groups, each of which is repeated three times, once in the upper fields, once in the middle fields and once in the lower fields, the specific place for each crop depending on its need for attention and time to harvest. Two unheated hoophouses were also built, each covering three groups of five beds of summer vegetables during the main growing season, and winter vegetables during the cold season. Because of the farm's location in the mountains, winters are long and cold, but wild plants are abundant. Consequently, during the coldest months of the year when vegetables are in short supply, farm production switches to harvesting wild herbs growing both around the untilled vegetable beds and on the mountainside. Tools and harvesting Firmly grounded in Japan, but producing a majority of western-style vegetables and herbs, the farm uses a mix of Japanese and western farm tools. While we prefer western manufacturers for such things as chainsaws (Japanese brands are invariably too light) and spades (Japanese models are seemingly made for smaller, older farmers and are not meant to be used as aggressively as western models), when it comes to bladed implements (scissors, saws, machetes etc.), Japanese made are invariably by far the best option. Business model As a means of distinguishing itself from conventional producers in the region who grow standardised vegetables almost exclusively for a centralised state cooperative, Permaculture Mochizuki specialises in European (mainly French) style heritage varieties for sale under the Le Potager des Cerfs label: this has proven to be a successful means of escaping pressure to use conventional methods (fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, F1 seed varieties etc.) and to engage our neighbours in conversations in meaningful conversations concerning food safety and taste, leading often to explanations of our own permaculture methods. Being so specialised has also brought us a large number of specialised clients (mainly French chefs) which in turn has established our reputation and gained us the respect of the locals. In this way, by focusing on the production of mainly foreign vegetables that many would suppose to be more expensive, we have been able not only to assure ourselves an income, but to focus the attention of high-end chefs on permaculture and other regenerative and sustainable farming techniques, as well as to rekindle conversations concerning local Japanese varieties and the taste of vegetables in the past. Those products - flour from Japanese wheat, spelt and herb teas mainly - produced under the Permaculture Mochizuki label are more geared towards sale in the local community and involving young people who want to get started in farming but who have little experience.
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