KESENNUMA, MIYAGI PREF. – A tomato farm in the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, is busy harvesting its fruit. Still in its first year of life, the venture aims to become a symbol of reconstruction in the zone hammered by disaster five years ago.
The farm is located in the city’s Koizumi district, which is close to the coast. Kesennuma suffered significant damage in the March, 2011 quake and tsunami.
Around 30 workers are now busy harvesting tomatoes from 40,000 plants in a 2-hectare greenhouse, where temperatures are kept at 20 degrees Celsius or higher.
Three farmers affected by the disaster set up an agricultural corporation and installed state-of-the-art equipment last summer partly with support from the central government.
“We’ve been able to build a foundation for creating jobs,” co-founder Mamoru Oikawa, 54, says. “I hope that from here, post-disaster reconstruction will gather pace, and the tomato farm will become a symbol of the local community.”
The corporation aims to ship 500-600 tons of tomatoes each harvest season, which lasts from October to July. It uses a soilless nutriculture system and utilizes advanced equipment to monitor photosynthesis.
Fifty-six-year-old worker Kazuko Konno lost her house in the tsunami. She said she decided to work at the greenhouse because she wants to help create job opportunities in the local community for future generations.
Konno has now built a new house on the site of the one she lost, which is near the greenhouse.
“I thought I could feel something different if I start something new,” she says. “Every day is fresh, and I’m having fun.”
Before the disaster, the area where the greenhouse is situated was surrounded by rice paddies.
With expensive agricultural machinery such as tractors damaged in the tsunami, few farmers have been able to rebuild their businesses alone.
The tomato-growing corporation aims to expand next spring by leasing additional farmland.
“We hope the new corporation will become a major player in local agricultural business at a time when the number of farmers is falling,” a Kesennuma municipal government official said.