"Kuriyama Town, Affordability City!" - Unique products are great, but a wide selection is just as good!
"For those who farm with care for the nature at work, delicious vegetables are sure to grow, and delicious vegetables means happy diners!"
A confident declaration from the sales office of a local Hokkaido farming family in Kuriyama Town..
It's in the town of Kuriyama, located between Sapporo and Yubari, you can find a unique "Affordability City" where in-season vegetables are sold at a low price. These veggies are brought in from a core group of 60 farming families, and 100% of sales go directly to the producers.
I spoke with the representative Mr. Iwao Fujino Managing Director at湯地の丘自然農園 (Toji no Oka, Shizen-nouen) which runs "Affordability City."
"We think it's a given that the buyer should be able to meet face-to-face with the producers. This gives the producers a chance to meet their customers and hear feedback, it also gives the customers a sense of security. We want to create a real connection between people so that whether the farmers are growing onions or potatoes, they can hear just how they are being used in food and perhaps give some pointers about their produce!
But we connect farmers to more than just direct buyers. We also have them meet with chefs to speak about customer's reactions to the food and promote the quality of Kuriyama vegetables. This inevitably leads to those customers visiting Kuriyama for some shopping, creating a cycle which helps spread the word! We've been working at this for 11 years now, and "Affordability City" continues to grow."
The produce grown in Kuriyama covers the range of agricultural products produced in Hokkaido, meaning that everything is available.
For the farmers, compared to having a specialty item, being able to provide a wide selection of items is much more fulfilling. It seems the customers think so as well.
"Around November in Hokkaido, shops tend to have a reduced selection of vegetables available. However here in Kuriyama the selection is still huge. We farmers thought abundant late year vegetables was quite normal but our customers informed us otherwise."
However, as abundant as summer vegetables are here in Hokkaido, during the long winter it is hard to grow much of anything. But the farmers have teamed up with farmers in Kagoshima who have a similar problem.
"In Kagoshima the high heat in August prevents many things from growing. However, here August is an excellent growing season. On the flip side, crops can still be grown in Kagoshima during the winter months. We help each other out when our supplies are low."
During my interview, in early May, Hokkaido veggies hadn't been harvested yet, so a dedicated Kagoshima corner was set up at "Affordability City."
"Long ago Satsuma and Choshu were linked bringing the center of Japan together agriculturally. Now Kuriyama and Kagoshima are linked, bringing the north and south together."
"Affordability City is run by farming families, and all sales are direct from the producer. Each farmer that joins runs it in their own way. Farming moms are quite busy, often waking up early, working in the fields and then making boxed lunches to sell.
If you push people too hard than it begins to cause stress. When that happens, it can be reflected on the crops themselves and affect their taste. However, if the vegetables are made in a calm, happy environment then they will taste delicious. It's really true!"
This past spring has been a rough one in Hokkaido, so the production has been a little delayed. But things are finally on track and soon the output will be back to normal.
In June you can expect asparagus, zucchini, cabbage, and strawberries. July will bring tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, and sweet corn. In August you can find okra, soybeans, melons, watermelons, and more. At "Affordability City" the best veggies of each season are all arranged for you to sort through!
For locals, it's easy to visit and buy the local produce right from the producers.
However, for those living a bit father away in Hokkaido, there is local shipping available. By all means, if you have the chance to try these delicious veggies, be sure to take it!
After you've experienced the flavor, be sure to give the producers some feedback!
Every bit of input helps the farmers improve their produce year after year!
■値ごろ市 (Affordability City)
(Toji 29-Banchi, Kuriyama-cho, Yubari-Gun)
※Towards the Kuriyama Max Value on National Highway 234.
Open daily from May 3rd to late November.
■Mail Order Site:
■Managed by 湯地の丘自然農園
(Toji 29-Banchi, Kuriyama-cho, Yubari-Gun)
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
Photographs by Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Itsuki.