Japanese people believe that the land is a gift from the Ancestors. This is why they do not want to sell it. Therefore, local elders often ask the Konohana Family to manage their land. As a result, more than 95% of the land that Konohana Family uses is free, and sometimes the ecovillage gets paid to cultivate the land because the government will charge owners a higher tax if it is not used for cultivation. “The financial crisis happened, but it did not affect us at all since we produce most of our food by ourselves”, reports Michiyo Furuhashi.
Through the clear air you can see the beautiful and enormous Mt. Fuji from the fields. The vegetable production team is weeding in the green onion field, and each member of the rice production team goes around rice paddies in the local area to check the water levels and enjoy the reflection of Mt. Fuji.
Generally in Japan, it is very rare to see young people working in the fields, since, as in most of the developed countries, the agricultural population is aging and many working in the fields are in their 70’s and 80’s. However, Japanese people believe that the land is a gift from the Ancestors, so they do not want to sell it. Therefore, the local elders often ask Konohana Family to manage their land. As a result, more than 95% of the land that Konohana Family uses is free, and sometimes we get paid to cultivate the land because the government will charge owners a higher tax if it is not used for cultivation.
Konohana Family is located at the foot of Mt. Fuji, two hours from central Tokyo by car. The land is fertile, with volcanic soil and good quality spring water from Mt. Fuji that runs throughout the year. Out of 78 members (55 adult and 23 children), about 15 members work in the fields every day.
The financial crisis happened, but it did not affect us at all since we produce most of our food by ourselves. We are a fully vegetarian community on our way to becoming vegan. Konohana Family produces 260 varieties of vegetables, rice, fruits, grains, tea and herbs, using natural farming methods – which means we do not use any chemicals. We also have 550 chickens and 20 beehives. The bees collected more than 1 ton of honey in 2013.
These products were originally meant to be for members to be food-sufficient; however, our harvests are always large, and so we have been selling our crops and processed food to the local people since the community was established twenty years ago. Our safe and high-energy products are appreciated by the health-conscious customers in the local area as well as by city dwellers. Now, we sell our brown box vegetable sets to about 100 customers every week, and also sell to the three local markets. The price is the same as conventional produce since our first priority is to promote safe and sustainable food to the wider society rather than to make money.
Since we harvest a huge quantity of produce, we process it into various products such as carrot juice, more than 30 varieties of cookies and crackers, bread, dried vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrot, and Japanese white radish), flours and noodles (wheat and rice), pickles, teas (green and black), roasted brown rice coffee, nutritional supplement powder (turmeric, Ipomoea batatas, zedoary, sword beans, etc.), and so on.
Konohana Family has achieved very high food self-sufficiency. We consume less than 30% of what we produce, and we only purchase salt, sugar, vinegar, oil and some spices from the outside. Japanese staple seasonings such as Miso and soy sauce are also produced on site using traditional methods.
Konohana Family’s food production depends on microorganisms (MO). We use our original MO, called Konohana-kin, for almost every product. More than 120 kinds of effective MOs which are based on lacto-bacillus and are cultured at Konohana Family regularly. Members, chickens, crops, and bees ingest it by diluting it with water, and feed for the chickens is fermented with the MO for one month. By eating and drinking the MO food and water, the chicken coop does not smell at all.
The high quality chicken manure is used for the field as an organic fertilizer; however, we only use it when the MO in the soil is inactive during the cold weather. When the weather gets warm, we feed the MO in the field with carbon materials, and the MO increases its population. Where the smallest creatures exist, larger creatures always get attracted to them, creating a rich bio-diversity that makes the ecological system very healthy. The conventional practice is the opposite: antibiotics and chemicals wipe out most of the creatures, so that when any problems happen, no one can help out. That is the same with community life: if you have diverse members, there is always someone to help to solve problems. That is the beauty of diversity in communities!
In addition to MO, we use other techniques, such as companion plants, banker plants, and green mulch. Careful observation of nature gives us a lot of hints. Therefore, having “conversations” with crops, soil and MO is important for us. These days, we sing ancient Japanese songs that were identified from the sound of the universe about 12,000 years ago, and these improve the energy field.
We share our techniques at EDE’s, and whenever the wider society requests. Also, we offer a monthly luncheon event hosting 150 to 200 local people. The whole community participates in cooking, decorating, serving, and dishwashing. Senior citizens are given a half price for this very delicately made special lunch (see photo.) We set a theme each time, and create a magical one-time restaurant. In this way, we establish good connections with the local people, and more and more people come to the restaurant to experience the beauty of healthy and safe vegetarian meals. We do not set out to educate people, but this experience surely makes people think about their daily meals and ways of eating.
All of the above activities are possible when the spirituality of members in the community reaches a certain maturity. We are of course still learning from the universe.
Ecovillages are the best places to demonstrate “Food Sovereignty” in the integration of the four elements of spirituality, ecology, social, and economy.
One of Konohana’s mottos is, “Before cultivating a field, cultivate your spirit”. Even in the field, we constantly observe our emotions and encourage our egos to live in a more harmonious way at each moment. When you become a sovereign of yourself and connect with others, all sovereignty becomes possible.