Urban Agriculture Craze Boon to Farmers in Japan

Japan's yard-less city dwellers are increasingly drawn to "weekend farming" plots rented from commercial farmers on the urban fringe. Could it help the country's struggling agriculture sector? Kenji Hall reports.
December 6, 2010, 10am PST | Lynn Vande Stouwe
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Though there is no comprehensive data on the subject, anecdotal evidence suggests a growth in the number of urban families are trying their hand at farming, says Hall. In Tokyo, where residents can rent 150 square feet patches of public land, applicants exceed the number of plots 3-to-1.

Families are also renting plots from farmers at city edges--a small step towards strengthening Japan's agricultural industry, which has long been in decline, according to Hall. The nation's farmers are disadvantaged against global competitors due to outdated distribution systems and small scale. Japanese farms average 4.7 acres compared to 490 acres for American farms.

Hall writes:

"As of February, 979,000 acres, or 10% of Japan's farmland, sat empty, according to Agriculture Ministry data. Dormant fields are a lost opportunity in a country where only about a third of the land is arable...Eager to put unused farmland to use, the government has offered subsidies to farmers who avail their fields and expertise to couples, families and schoolchildren."

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Published on Sunday, December 5, 2010 in Los Angeles Times
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