Thomas Kloepfer and his wife Kaori have been running the Pitchfork farms and Tachibana Textiles shop on Mukaishima island since 2011.
Pitchfork Farms is located on a lush green hillside just below an abandoned hotel and just above a small fishing village. This is a natural farm following many of the principles sown by the Japanese master of wild natural farming techniques, Masanobu Fukuoka.
Some aspects of the Pitchfork farm reminded me of our visit to the Nakaoka Natural Farm on Miyajima island. At both farms we see an emphasis on diversity of crops, composting, resting plots, and also allowing weeds to play a part in moisture retention. The focus is not only on the end product (crop) itself but also an investment in time and energy to utilize sustainable methods to improve the land over time.
Other aspects of Pitchfork farm were different from other farms I have visited in Japan as there is a real focus on sustainability in all aspects of farm operations. The focus of growing crops here without chemicals has a focus on natural compost, in collaboration with the use of farm animals to help with weed control and natural fertilizer, as well as using a pitchfork technique instead of tilling the soil.
The Pitchfork Farms blog states,
“Our farm uses regenerative agriculture to create a thriving hillside orchard. We grow fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Its a great place to work and relax, as we have year round harvest and can enjoy tranquil views of the Seto inland sea. We are developing the farm to be a center for sustainable production, and will incorporate intensive growing techniques to improve soil health. We are dedicated to connecting farms and community, challenging conventional approaches to agriculture, and celebrating the land, the people, and the moment. ”
As you can see in the video from our visit to the farm, Thomas has been working slowly to enrich the soil and bring back trees which had been damaged by previous overuse of fungicides and pesticides. He has plans to expand the farm by adding fruit trees, making his own craft beer and perhaps even his own wine.
If you are visiting Onomichi, Mukaishima is a short drive or bicycle ride from Onomichi. Pitchfork farms is set on a beautiful hill overlooking the Seto-inland sea and small islands off the coast. Not far from the farm is a beautiful lookout spot, an abandoned hotel, USHIO vegan chocolate shop and more enticing destinations to fill a daytrip from Hiroshima city.
You can find Pitchfork farms at the Food Festival this weekend – held every year at the end of October around the Hiroshima castle grounds. You can also set up weekly home-delivery orders via their website or facebook page.
Thomas has a great understanding of sustainability and is making efforts on the farm to reduce plastic use. Customers can also request for packaging to be plastic-free or possibilities of reusing your own container for regular delivery customers. It’s exciting to find zero-waste shopping opportunities like this in Hiroshima.
I hope we can get Thomas and his wife Kaori to come to speak at one of the monthly Seeking Sustainability Events Exciting plans ahead such as setting up a compost drop (bring your kitchen waste to be reused on Pitchfork farms), weekly farmer’s market of their veggies and opportunities to attend farm visits and workshops. Please get in touch if you are interested in taking part.