As seen in our first contemplative practice, Sun-Maid raisins hardly need any maids to be harvested anymore. Compared to the raisin industry a few decades ago, the industry today is largely mechanical and technical. We utilize huge harvesting tractors that do all the work of picking and sorting the grapes, and are stored in huge quantities to undergo the dehydration process. My experience in the US. to date has had little to do with agriculture, and perhaps many other US. residents can say the same. This contemplative practice really opened my eyes as to why that might be.
I have a naive dream of becoming a farmer, hopefully sometime soon. I did not start thinking of it as a naive dream until I began attending the university, however. My whole life before then, I had thought it totally feasible. Then again, most of my life before then had been spent in Japan, where the agriculture industry is generally much different from the ones in the US. Farms are common sights in Japan, and are seen anywhere from the fields between cities, to surrounding suburban areas, and even to community gardens in each neighborhood. As a child, I took countless field trips to farms to harvest peanuts, yams, chestnuts, and tangerines (to name a few). I’d really come to idealize the Japanese farming lifestyle as a kid, and I suppose it had begun to wane after moving to the US.
This is a video about the Yamagata Girl’s Farm, about 250 miles north of Tokyo. The Girl’s Farm is an agricultural organization whose goal is to promote agriculture work amongst young women. In the video, the detailed process of growing watermelons is shown (narration is included, but not necessary to understand to get the gist of the video). The clip follows them through tending the saplings, to selling the fully grown fruit, and then to an agricultural outreach event. The hands-on process you see is not uncommon in Japan, even for commercial farmers–the Girl’s Farm is in fact a commercial farm who sells produce and food items to grocers, restaurants, and hotels.
While the Girl’s Farm is important in several ways, I find it important to bring back to our raisin exercise and my perceptions of the realities of farming. I found myself once again excited by the idea of farming, as moving to the US had changed that enthusiasm quite drastically. Rather than feeling dismal, the raisin exercise had actually lifted my interest in being a Japanese farmer and re-strengthening my connection with agriculture.