Chicago-based filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski are spending the summer in Fukushima, Japan documenting the organic farmers here from planting through harvest, and examining the impact of the nuclear disaster on the farmers, their land, the food they produce, and their customers. The questions they are investigating are ones that every nuclear society must face, as they follow these conscientious stewards of the land contending with the fallout from others’ irresponsibility...
Newly planted rice is sprouting from the flooded fields on Colors of the Seasons Farm, 45 miles from the crippled Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant and 25 miles outside the evacuation zone.
26-year-old Masanori Yoshida left his job as a cook at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo three years ago to work his family’s land with his wife, parents, and grandmother.
The Yoshidas have farmed this land for nine generations—200 years. They grow natural crops including ‘firefly rice,’ so named because the insects, driven near extinction by chemical pesticides and fertilizer, have proliferated as farmers return to the traditional methods practiced by their ancestors. The Yoshidas’ farm is one many organic farms in Tohoku, the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged region of northern Japan that supplies much of the rice and vegetables to Tokyo and across the country. Some of the farmers have already been forced to abandon their land, their livestock, and their homes to the threat of radioactive fallout.
But many more are faced with uncertainty about the level of contamination in their soil. They’re looking for ways to more precisely test radiation levels of specific locations and crops. And they’re exploring what they can grow to help the soil repair itself from the nuclear disaster.
More images...Intermittent government warnings have limited the sale of food grown there since high levels of radiation were detected in some vegetables, milk and fish from the region. In the absence of a comprehensive policy on testing for radiation and regulating exposure and contamination, the public is left in a state of anxious ambiguity, risking consumption of dangerous crops, as well as potentially unnecessary discrimination against crops, other products, and people from the region that compounds the economic damage from the disaster.
“We don’t know if our crops will be safe,” Masanori says. “We can’t ignore this issue. But we won’t stop cultivating our land. We farmers need to nurture the environment, nature and culture, and pass them to them to the next generation.”
Farmers and scientists search desperately for ways to continue safely using this rich land, or restore it to its natural state. Whether they can succeed, or whether the farmers must abandon their ancestral homesteads, remains to be seen.
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