Story of Farmer’s RestaurantIntroduction
The start of Farmer’s Restaurant in Akizuno was an inspection tour in advanced region (33 members) which was a small village, Kakinosawa area in Iida, Nagano prefecture sponsored by Akizuno-juku in 2002. There, we had Hisakata-gozen which was made by mothers of Kakinosawa Production Association for lunch. ‘Hisakata-gozen’ was entered ‘Food Amenity Contest’ held with the theme ‘preserve and develop regional food’ by National Land Agency in November, 2000, as represented Nagano, and won the prize of ‘the chairman’s award of thinking of food amenity’. ‘Hisakata-gozen’ was a real regional cuisine and made us feel Kakinosawa. It was a great way to bring people from outside of the village with the regional food which local mothers make with local ingredients. Their try also gave us the idea that there is a possibility to provide regional cuisine in a farmer’s restaurant in Akizuno if we could make an arrangement.
Kamiakizu Women Association also encountered a farmer’s restaurant. The same year in 2002, they went for inspection to Konohana Garten in Oyama, Oita prefecture. There was a farmer’s restaurant next to the farmer’s market.
At lunch time, they had popular lunch buffet in Konohana Garten. They were surprised that even though it was after one o’clock, there were still many people in the restaurant. Farmer’s wives make 70 kinds of dishes out of 100 kinds of menu using local ingredients everyday there. Dishes were simple and vegetables-centered, but warm and home-made taste. The restaurant in Konohana Garten have great effect on a project of Akizuno Garten. It is easily imagined that Konobana Garten was a significant figure since three out of four members who made effort to establish a farmer’s restaurant Mikan Batake had taken part in that inspection. Thereafter, inspection of Konohana Garten was done two and three times.
Inauguration of Committee for Examining How to Reuse Wooden Schoolhouse
In fall, 2003, the committee for examining how to reuse wooden schoolhouse was inaugurated. It was a committee for examining how to reuse the wooden schoolhouse of Kamiakizu elementary school after it moved to a new location in April, 2006. There had been intense arguments in the committee and exchanging opinions in the area for a year, and finally people unified the direction of how to reuse the vacant schoolhouse and submitted to Tanabe city. The direction was to reuse the wooden schoolhouse as a green tourism facility and to aim for revitalizing the area. In the plan, to make people in the city visit a farming village easily, the inevitability of accommodation and a farmer’s restaurant was also shown.
Let’s Try a Farmer’s Restaurant
In 2007, the plan of Akizuno Garten became fully in progress. In June, Akizuno Corporation was established as an administration organization of Akizuno Garten by the investment of residents. Many projects were shown for Akizuno Garten, for example, projects of dietary education and agriculture hands-on activity, community farms, a farmer’s restaurant, accommodation, owner of mikan trees, supporting a life in countryside, and accepting inspection for revitalizing regions.
However, there was a problem of who would cook in a farmer’s restaurant project because no one and no organization raised their hands. Therefore, an association of thinking about Kamiakizu farmer’s restaurant was inaugurated, and for a year, members of association had made inspection tours of farmer’s restaurants and tried experiences of farmer’s restaurant in local with a budget of National Land Agency as a project of peninsula area network (making a foothold of food). Liken Kamiakizu farming village environmental improvement center to a farmer’s restaurant, they made menu in each season with local ingredients, invited local people, and practiced buffet style farmer’s restaurant. Especially at a trial in summer, they invited 150 residents as customers and it was the largest scale practice. That experience leaded to their confidence.
Kamiakizu is prospered with agriculture, so women in farmhouse are also workers. There was a critical issue that what kind of organization of restaurant management would be the best for women in local as they worked. Of course, without solving that problem, it would have major impact on not even restaurant management but also Akizuno Garten management.
The association of thinking about a farmer’s restaurant continued discussing that problem. If the trader took business all from management to cooking, it would deviates from the idea of green tourism. In addition, the opinion that there is a meaning mothers in local cook regional cuisine in a famer’s restaurant strongly came up in the meeting with people related to tourism and press. And so the story began.
Inspection of Farmer’s Restaurant
The association of thinking about a farmer’s restaurant had made inspection tours at Karakara shop in Kitayama village, Skyfood in Owase, and Kazenifukarete managed by Mokumoku farm in Tsu, and learned their management style, menu, store atmosphere, and view around the store. In addition, they looked around the restaurants in Shirahama and Tanabe and blew up their image of own restaurant. And again, they visited Konohana Garten. The atmosphere and dishes in the restaurant are the most close to what they image. Also, with the experiences of trial, they came up the conclusion that Konohana Garten style would be feasible.
Finally in Real Stage
Until then, four local women’s groups (Yumi club, Ikishina Kobo, Karatachi group, and Akizuno Kinomitachi) had studied about a farmer’s restaurant.
The time for a big decision had come. Akizuno Corporation which manages Akizuno Garten strongly requested that local mothers manage a farmer’s restaurant, so four members from two groups became in charge and the restaurant was ready to open.
The wooden schoolhouse and green add spice to the food. There are about 20 seats in the restaurant, and also it is possible to eat in courtyard. Moreover, when customers with a group come, they can use classrooms in schoolhouse building. One of the room was reformed into Japanese-style tatami room.
Worries Went Through Their Mind Being close to the opening, we looked into the details of business, started announcing publicly, building the restaurant, getting equipment, finding workers and training them, and a month before opening, we had a tasting party.
Our worries at the time was the smallness of the capacity of restaurant. In the plan turned into the administration for grant system, there was a big differences of predicting numbers of customers between administration and local. Finally, the restaurant size was set by the small predicting numbers of customers.
Worries never ends. ‘Will customers really come to our restaurant?’ Two months before opening, there was the unexpected financial crisis by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. The recession shook economy in Japan. All who related to the restaurant started to worry. Meanwhile, the restaurant name was decided to Mikan Batake, and the restaurant was ready to open.
‘It’ll succeed. Many residents in the area gathered and made every effort.’
‘Welcome to Mikan Batake’ There was a long waiting line before 30 minutes from opening time. Customers were four times more than we expected. There were so many customers against administration expectation, and we had cries of joy. Although it became next big issue.
Significance of Our Farmer’s Restaurant
While sealed pouch food and frozen food are overflowed in daily meal in Japan these days, there is a possibility that offering regional cuisine with using local ingredients connects producers and consumers, and even urban city and countryside. If those exchanges continues, it would progress to deliver the produce in the region directly to consumers.
There isn’t any professional chefs in our restaurant, but hand-made regional cuisine made from local ingredients is served by local mothers. We don’t want to lose by a restaurant which serves pre-packaged food or frozen meal no matter how trouble homemade dish is. We want to aim for a restaurant which serves real home-made meal, and make customers be satisfied.
We’d like to vitalize our region by the encounter in the farmer’s restaurant.