The Heroes Who Brings the Freshest Produce to Town

  • By Sirada

“Jagata-kun” 

Have you heard of this name?

It is the name of the Kutchan town mascot, the town favourite which translates into English as “the potato boy”. This to highlight one of Kutchan’s biggest exports – the humble potato; reputed for its sweetness and tastiness, one of the produce this area proudly presents.  

Now is the harvest season, one of the busiest times of the year and yet the two local farmers were kind enough to sit down for a chat one afternoon, so we get to know more about our local heroes, what they do and the story behind all their hard work producing and delivering the town's best quality vegetables for our locals and guests to enjoy. 

Firstly let us introduce Mr. Masahiko Okada who owns Korpokkur farm in Kutchan with an amazing view of Mount Yotei.

Tell us more about yourself?

I am originally from Kutchan and farming has been in my family for many years, since my great-grandparents' generation, passing on from generation to generation. During the summer months, 6 of my family members including myself, work together from initial planting, taking care of the vegetables, right through to harvesting. In the winter, I really enjoy tele-skiing.

What kind of vegetables do you grow? 

Potatoes are the main produce, as well as corn. We also grow some other vegetables for our families dinners.

Why did you choose to grow potatoes as the main portion of the farm?

Well, potatoes have been our main produce since the previous generation. We have everything we need, all the machines and equipment ready, that's one of the reasons why we chose to continue the tradition. Apart from that, the temperature here is perfect for it, potatoes love coldness and the big difference in temperature between day and night, which we have in Kutchan. There is also a good amount of water. Another secret ingredient to the potatoes flavour, is our famous (powder) snow which brings nutrients to the soil and makes the potatoes rich with nutrients.

Amazing, no surprise why the potatoes are so famous in this area. We would love to know more about the process, please tell us a bit more about it. Are they hard to care for?

With the special tools we have, it is not really hard to take care of them. We usually start planting from May. Flowers will start blooming from the beginning of July and they will be ready for harvest from September. After potato harvesting, we move to the corn. Yummy time. 

I love potatoes, I am sure you do too, do you?

Yes, of course I do.

What is your favourite potato dish?  

Everything, salad and fried potatoes are great and they make a perfect combination with beer.  

Mrs Natcharat Iwata, is the owner of Iwata farm in the Rusutsu area, which is about 30 minutes away from the Kutchan town centre. She mentioned in our conversation,  “We grow vegetables that are part of Japanese dining culture”. The family wakes up at 3am every morning and finishes working after the sun sets, a lot of times until 8pm to ensure they can deliver their fresh vegetables to the town. 

How long have you been farming? 

It’s been 11 years for me and much longer for my husband. I have my little daughter helping us too on her days off and after school, as well as the grandparents. They are a big support too, they are still very very fit, and I am really impressed with what they can do.  

Awesome, that's the power of family love. Can you please tell us more about your farm? 

We grow 5 different types of vegetables each summer, which are asparagus, potatoes, radish, red beans and beet (which is used for making sugar). We’re a family of 4, so we don’t really hire people as we have invested in technology and machines to support us. It is great as it allows us more time to do things that need to be done manually and take care of our vegetables, to make sure they are big sized and tasty.  

You mentioned that you grow 5 vegetables, why these 5? 

We choose to grow the ingredients Japanese love to eat - that plays a big part in Japanese dining culture, served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Potato is a great example for that, especially with the wide variety of dishes that are made with potatoes from soups, salads, snacks and main dishes.  

How do you manage and take care of them? I am sure each of them has a different process etc. What is your system? 

Well, we work on different produce at different times of the year, starting with beets, we begin seeding in March once the snow melts and leave them alone for the whole summer, harvesting at the end of the season, which is around October. Asparagus is another early one, the process starts from around April and we normally finish harvesting around June. Then we move onto radish followed by potatoes and red beans during July to September. 

That sounds like a busy summer. Hope you can find some time to rest in winter.

Yes, we are definitely less busy in winter. I don't go skiing, but one of my dreams is taking the gondola up to the mountain in Hirafu for photos with Mount Yotei. I've never done it before, so I am looking forward to it this winter. I will definitely find some time to visit Setsu Niseko for food next summer, I have heard that there will be many good restaurants in the hotel.

Yes, please, we are really looking forward to welcoming you to Setsu Niseko.

We got some potatoes from the farmers for our dinner, and no surprise they were amazing. We are obviously in the ultimate region for culinary taste and freshness, local vegetables grown in this area are known for a tastiness that is hard to beat. To encourage appreciation of the local produce, we pride ourselves in supporting local farmers and bringing their produce to the forefront, celebrating the freshest local flavours in our dishes. 

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