(Photos from Nagano, Japan)
I try to buy locally grown vegetables and eggs as much as possible, but I don't have a local farmers market nearby. Instead, my supermarket has a large section with foods that farmers here in central Saitama are producing. I like how the food reflects the changing seasons, with more greens now in winter, and citrus fruit and preserves (and yummy noodles). According to JA General Research Institute, there are about 5,000 direct-sales farmers market stores nationwide. Of them, about 2,000 are run by farmers' cooperatives and 3,000 by third-sector companies and other farmer groups, according to The Japan Times. The stores rake in up to ¥100 million (about US$ 800,000-1 million) a year on average.
(Photo from Atami, Shizuoka official website)
That's a lot of farmers markets, but most consumers here do look very carefully at the label and have opinions about the food they buy. Being able to talk to helpful staff and argue about the quality is one reason farmers markets have become so popular: "People are apparently buying them because they feel safer eating products made by farmers who aren't afraid to be identified."
(Photo from Memuro Farmers Market in Tokachi)
"Many of the consumers started having doubts about mass production and the mass retail system" at that time, said Masayuki Yamamoto, a researcher at the JA General Research Institute. The stores also caused farmers to change their way of thinking. Many stores installed computer systems that allowed them to send daily sales data to each of the farmers so they could see what consumers were buying.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government is trying to raise awareness about Japan's low food self-sufficiency rate, with campaigns on Youtube. In 2008, the high oil prices led to shortages and higher food prices, reminding people here how vulnerable we are in case we no longer have easy access to fossile fuels for farm equipment and trucks - and fertilizers. Farmers markets, at least, are a local solution that I strongly believe in.
More Farmers' Markets and Food in Japan:
Farmers Markets: Great, But Still Not Perfect
The Carbon Footprint of Farmers' Markets
Organic Food: Healthier for You and the Planet
Food Education for Kids in Japan a Hot Topic
Wild Food: Seven Herbs To Celebrate The Return Of Green
Kelly's posts on Farmers Markets on Planet Green:
Find Dinner Farmers ' Market: Garlic Tomato Sauce
Grow Your Own Veggies: The Sequel: Farmers Market
Find Your Dinner at the Farmers ' Market: Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Take a Trip to the Farmers ' Market
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp