Bugs, Not Pests | Part I: The Farmer

Back2Life
5 min readJun 9, 2021

Yukio Ogawa and his mission to bring nature back into farming

Our subject Yukio Ogawa at work harvesting new potatoes.
Yukio Ogawa

Yukio Ogawa’s vegetable farm has become a pesticide-free dreamland for produce, insects, and workers who strive for a more natural method to life and all that grows in it.

Our team at B2L had the pleasure of first arriving at Ogawa-san’s farm as volunteers in the full flush of an April spring — gloves and wellies at the ready. His 1.5 hectare farm lies within the town of Kashiwa, in the slowly industrializing countryside of Chiba just outside of Tokyo. From its humble days in the 19th century as turnip and scallion farm, Ogawa-san has now transformed this family heirloom into a ecosystem of its own.

As a child on the same farm, Ogawa-san saw the bugs as his playmates and loved them as such. His strong belief in protecting bugs and utilizing their benefit stemmed here, and from watching the effects of pesticides used by previous generations. This chemical (and rather ubiquitous) practice in Japan, to his dismay, eliminated his friends in the name of aesthetics.

He left the small town of Kashiwa after graduating high school and went to Tokyo’s Keio University where he studied the Economics. As a student, he learned about the business of agriculture and the necessity for balance in business which he then connected with the balance needed in the environment. While having a larger farm area can produce more products and profit, according to Ogawa-san, these unsustainable methods reduce the overall quality for consumers and increase the burdensome interference on the environment. But of course he knew this wasn’t as easy in practice. Therefore after a short stint working for a manufacturing business in Saitama, he returned to the family farm in 2001 to begin his trials.

Ogawa-san turning up the soil to plant some oka-hijiki — a growing partner to eggplants

Since taking over the farm completely a few years ago, he crafted his own round-the-clock schedule. And as you may have guessed, the farmer’s job is never really done. On an average day, he wakes up before the sun to either package produce for delivery or to harvest and plant before the sweltering, humid summer weather makes it unbearable to work inside the greenhouses. Once his small group of employees and volunteers arrives at the more acceptable hour of eight to nine o’clock, he gives them their various assignments before continuing his own endeavors and experiments around the modest landscape. At night, he takes his nightly patrol around the farm to check on the plants, the pests, and their natural predators who all at play within his fields. For our team on that first afternoon, Ogawa-san gave us the not-so-arduous task of planting a few adolescent okras into soft dirt.

Okra sprouts ready and readied to root.

Outside of being a farmer, Ogawa-san actively works within the community to promote and educate others on harmonious sustainability which focuses on supporting the natural ecosystem. As he gives lectures at regional universities on his unique bug-forward farming, he also works with the younger generation by giving occasional school tours of his farm and the insects that live within it. By exposing children to the benefits of insects within their daily life, he said, it can reduce the overall fear of insects and allow people to nurture an environment that promotes all beings.

Ogawa-san also advocates and and teaches others within the horticultural community about his bug-forward methods to agro-savvy volunteers or those at the monthly farmer’s market. At the “marché”, he speaks and collaborates with other farmers about ways to environmentally produce vegetables without sacrificing the quality or the yen. This, he hopes, will begin the domino effect of reducing intrusive, high-impact methods of mass agriculture in our societies and increase the sustainability within our global ecosystem.

The ultimate goal for himself, according to Ogawa-san, is to become more of a monitor than a farmer. His personal philosophy as producer is to make his land mimic the qualities of the environment where fruits and vegetables grew prior to large machinery and modern intervention. He wants his produce to be self-reliant and resilient to diseases or weather changes without constant vigilance and mediation. He wants to begin reversing the modern methods of agriculture that are so dependent on the support of the farmer, rather than the plants being able to figure themselves out with the help of the birds and bees around them. He wants to see nature take its natural course — as so designed. And fortunately, others agree.

A picture of Ogawa-san’s book, Growing without Pesticides: A Home Garden with Insects
Growing without Pesticides: A Home Garden with Insects, by Yukio Ogawa

While naturally a soft-spoken, and unobtrusive man, Ogawa-san has garnered the attention of multiple research institutions, news organizations, and publishers for his eco, insect-forward farming style. On top of these televised and editorial appearances, Yukio Ogawa also has a published book, Growing without Pesticides: A Home Garden with Insects, on the benefits of insects and the techniques that help your garden to thrive in verdure. If you’re interested in learning more about his methods in detail, his book is currently available on Amazon in Japanese and Chinese!

Join us June 23rd for Part 2 of Bugs, Not Pests, which delves into the characters and critters who live on the farm.

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more photos and updates!

--

--

Back2Life

Promoting global Food Education, Sustainability, and Traditions for our Modern World. Based in Tokyo, Japan.