Agris Seijo rental farm in Seijogakuenmae Japan reported by Tokyo Green
Photo by Jared Braiterman PhD
Reported by Jared Braiterman PhD
in Tokyo Green
I visited Odakyu’s Agris Seijo rental farm in Seijogakuenmae in Setagaya and was prepared to be charmed by a community vegetable farm built by a rail company above their tracks. Three years ago, the Odakyu corporation rebuilt the station, undergrounded the railway, and used some of the new land to promote urban farming. But I left feeling somewhat strange that reclaimed land could be gated and restricted. Although it is the rail company’s property, I think they missed a huge opportunity to create a great space for the neighborhood.
The farm is entered through a two story building that has a plant store on the first floor, spilling into the sidewalk, and a club room on the second floor. On entering the building, I learned that the garden was gated, and that no photographs were allowed. With my Tokyo University of Agriculture business card, I was handed a visitor’s pass. Two explanations were given about the no photography policy: customers would be concerned about their privacy, and photographers might misrepresent the photos they take. Please note that all the photos in this post were all taken from public roadways outside the gates.
Once inside, I discovered that this Agris Seijo t has 303 rental plots, ranging in price between 5,500 and 14,500 yen per month ($60 to $175) depending on size and sunlight. 70% of the plots are being used, and the farm is organized in two seasons, with a fallow period during winter. Many of the customers are first time vegetable growers, and there are classes and staff to help them.
Some of what I observed: an elderly man harvesting giant sweet potatoes. Attractive netting with metallic strips to deter birds and insects. Some very attractive plots with broccoli, rainbow chard, carrots, celery, lettuce, salty leaf, peppers, basil, cauliflower, onion, eggplant, daikon radish.
Citizen Farmers in Japan: ‘Kitchen gardens’-everybody wants to get their hands dirty
BY YAEKO ABE, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN.
Across the world, backyard vegetable patches have traditionally been the preserve of bearded baby boomers.
“Farmers” work up a sweat at “Iga-san no Hatake” (Iga-san’s farm), a farm-experience venture in Nerima Ward. (HISAO NAITO/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)
n recent years, however, a rustic urge has been catching on in Japan. People of all ages and interests have been getting down on their hands and knees to cultivate the earth.
Some do it to put fresh, pesticide-free vegetables on the table. Others simply want the satisfaction of growing their own produce.
In response to booming demand, allotment gardens that make use of fallow farmland are cropping up everywhere. There are up to 3,000 across the nation–the little “kitchen garden,” it seems, is making a comeback.
Urban vegetable gardens that cater to members only are being created in front of railway stations in major cities. Tokyoites are now able to grow vegetables in patches that straddle railway lines.
Agris Seijo is a members-only rental farm that opened May 4. The location is prime: the upmarket, residential west side of Seijo Gakuen-mae Station on the Odakyu Line in Setagaya Ward.
The “field,” which is 20 meters wide and 250 meters long, consists of 300 plots that cover 6 square meters each. The project became possible after the Odakyu Line was relocated underground, freeing up a new “rooftop” space.
Agris Seijo is no run-of-the-mill vegetable garden. Members of the urban gardening club pay an annual fee of 136,500 yen, for which they are given access to showers, a clubhouse with a lounge, gardening tools imported from Britain and rubber boots manufactured by a French outdoor goods brand. Fertilizer and other chemicals are also on hand.
Members can attend a variety of vegetable-themed lectures on topics as diverse as: baking cakes and confections with vegetables, and the art of vegetable carving. Those too busy to make it to the garden for an extended period of time can pay extra to get someone to tend their crops. An all-inclusive special membership package, which covers this service, costs 525,000 yen annually.
Tomoyasu Moriguchi, 42, an official at Odakyu Land Flora Corp., the company that manages Agris Seijo, said: “We hope to offer a wide range of services on the vegetable theme. Our goal is to create a new type of gardening culture.”
When it comes to urban gardening, Osaka’s busy Minami district is a step ahead. Namba Parks, a major shopping and business complex that opened next to Nankai Electric Railway’s Namba Station, has a terrace-style garden, “Parks Garden,” that reaches from the second to the ninth floors. Tucked away at one end is “Urban Farm,” a small vegetable garden that contains 20 plots, each measuring 6 square meters.
The annual rental fee is 50,400 yen, which provides access to shower facilities and gardening tools. When it opened in 2003, there were 1,100 applicants for the 20 plots. The company does not advertise, but that didn’t stop more than 150 people from putting their names down for vacated plots earlier this year as membership is renewed annually.
Almost all the “farmers” are novices. Masahiro Nishibane, 34, a Parks Garden official, helps with the cultivation planning and growing. Pesticides are not allowed. Nishibane said: “It is possible to grow vegetables right here in the middle of a bustling city. I want people to have fun with this.”