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Akihiro Iio, now in his late 30s, is the fifth generation of his family to run Iio Jozo, a venerable vinegar house outside of Kyoto. Using locally grown rice, the Iio family has been producing vinegar in Kyoto for more than 120 years, and since the early 1960s their output has been 100 percent organic.

After World War II, Japan Agriculture pushed chemical fertilizers and insecticides on farmers to ease the difficulty of traditional farming and increase yields. Iio’s grandfather began to notice that there were no insects or little fish in the flooded rice fields of the farmers that grew rice for his vinegar. Alarmed, he set out to convince them, one by one, over a period of two years, to convert to organic farming methods — something that was highly unusual at the time. The fact that Iio’s grandfather was able to persuade not just one farmer but several is a testament to the man.

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