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Yasaiya Hajime – a vegetable shop bringing you produce with love from harusaa (farmers)
post : 2017.11.20 07:00
During your stay in Okinawa, you may find fresh vegetables in wooden boxes here and there. They often look too good to pass up. You might have seen them before at marché in foreign countries. They can be purchased by weight from mobile vegetable vendor Yasaiya Hajime.
Owner Gen Matsumura had never been in the agriculture business until he moved to Okinawa. Once he worked at a farm and experienced farming from scratch, he realized how differences in taste of vegetables come about.
He worked at a farm that used no pesticides or agricultural chemicals. It took more time and effort, but the reward was growing and harvesting tasty vegetables. He was mesmerized by the way of growing vegetables with love.
He found out that there are many Okinawan harusaa (“farmers” in the Okinawan dialect) who choose to farm without pesticides and agro chemicals. At the same time, he realized that there weren’t any great channels of distributions.
“I am not the kind of person who can ignore problems once I face them,” said Matsumura.
He started thinking of ways he could do business creating channels of distribution instead of farming. He especially wanted to deliver the harusaa’s love of farming to the people.
He sells only organic or fertilizer-free vegetables. Fertilizer-free vegetables are best because they grow naturally and contain high nutrition. According to Matsumura, human bodies know the difference.
“Making a healthy soil and believing in the power of vegetables is the way to grow fertilizer-free produce,” Matsumura said. “I am more about helping than producing. It is like the parents raise children. “
His words sound like the way I want to raise my two children. I want most to bring out their personalities and skills. I support them and believe in their ability to survive. I know they can make their life great when they can master their own skills.
As for vegetables, if they grow under their own power, they become full of energy good flavor. With a minimum amount of pesticides and fertilizer – and lots of love given by farmers – they should come out great. Personally, those are the kinds of vegetables I prefer.
Matsumura’s produce is simple, but flavorful, spicy or sweet. You can enjoy the unique flavor of each piece. When he sees the reaction of kids at various events, effect is obvious.
“Kids who don’t usually eat carrots or tomatoes seem enjoy these more,” Matsumura said. “Their mothers look surprised. I believe kids instinctively understand the difference. “
As mentioned earlier, Matsumura gathered ideas about how he could deliver good quality vegetables to people and as a business. Selling organic onions grown by his friend in Awaji Island at a farmer’s market in summer when it gets hard to obtain vegetables in Okinawa was the trigger for him to search for a channel of distribution.
“I sold a lot at the farmer’s market,” he said. “I didn’t realize that people sought out onions in summer because so few are available here in Okinawa.”
He learned that vegetables are seasonally more in demand in certain areas. Vegetables gown locally are mostly available from the beginning of winter to early summer. The supply drops in summer. The availability of seasonal produce in Okinawa is opposite from what is the case in mainland Japan. Matsumura’s idea was to send Okinawan vegetables to the mainland in winter and import mainland vegetables to sell in summer. Of course, both imports and exports had to be grown with organic fertilizer and free from chemicals.
Soon after he quit the farm, he started Yasaiya Hajime. He visited farmers and started dealing with them a little at a time. At the same time, he built relationships with farmers in the Kansai (western Honshu) areas in Japan. He now has established distribution routes to supply both areas.
More and more restaurants in Okinawa have started using vegetables from Yasaiya Hajime as he gains recognition. CAFÉ UNIZON in Ginowan City is one of these places. At UNIZON, Yasaiya Hajime produce is available both for sale and also in the dishes prepared there.
A vegetable market is held once a month, where there’s a good chance to find more produce from Hajime.
Vegetable breads from Panya Uzuki are also available at the market.
Special vegetable items are on limited offer. Of course, the vegetables all come from Yasaiiya Hajime. I had a marinated veggie sandwich. The crunchy thin bread was coated with garlic butter. I enjoyed the crunchy taste and. The potato soup was excellent as well with its touch of celery.
Salad is often served in summer and stew in winter. Menus vary depending on the seasonal vegetables. Matsumura collaborates with a popular café and everything tastes great.
Matsumura joins in events often and now his online shop is open. He is a soft-spoken man who doesn’t seem like he has lots of energy to sell. But his passion to deliver great produce is something else! He is something of a mystery man in his way, but I know he works hard.
“I want continue to be a bridge between harusaa and consumers just as I have been,” he says. “To continue to deliver the love from farm to table and let people know how these vegetables are grown and harvested to be nutritious and tasty.”
Toward his goal, the circle of producers and consumers will continue growing through his efforts.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer: Akiko Ono