By Lauren HallJuly 11, 2012
TORII STATION, Japan (July 11, 2012) -- Torii Station in Okinawa will hold its first ever farmers market July 13, offering fresh produce grown on the installation by local farmers.
Torii Station is a 479-acre U.S. Army installation located in Yomitan Village on the island of Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture. Its subtropical climate makes it an ideal location for farming a large variety of produce.
Local farmers have been farming nearly two-thirds of the land on Torii Station for more than 52 years.
Currently there are 474 farmers on Army installations on Okinawa whose crops include sugarcane, watermelon, carrots, green peppers, cucumbers, purple sweet potatoes (beni-imo), hechima squash, cabbage, Chinese radish (daikon), eggplant, papaya, bananas, okra, mango, dragon fruit, tomatoes, goya (bitter melon) and more.
Seizen Higa has been farming watermelon, carrots and sugarcane here for 30 years. The secret to his health and success, he said, is farming every day and staying hydrated in Okinawa's heat and humidity.
"Taking regular breaks and drinking plenty of water is very important. Otherwise you would be miserable and dehydrated and you may even pass out," said Higa.
Shinei Higa has been farming on Torii for 15 years. His crops include purple sweet potatoes, sugar cane, okra and watermelon. He shared a tip on how to help the watermelon become sweeter: place Styrofoam cushions underneath each watermelon as it ripens on the vine.
"The sugar cane is sold to a factory in Uruma City where it is processed into unrefined brown sugar, white granulated sugar and powdered sugar. The purple sweet potatoes are sold to a local pastry shop," said Higa. "Okra grows so fast, we have to pick it every morning and evening."
After nearly a year's worth of coordination between the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Torii Station, Lt. Col. Cory Anderton, and the Yomitan mayor's office, local ward chiefs, Okinawa Defense Bureau, other Yomitan officials and Torii's Staff Judge Advocate office, the farmers will begin holding a weekly farmers market on Torii Station offering only produce grown on the installation.
"It is a pleasure to have the farmers and the farmers market on Torii Station. It allows the Soldiers to interact with our great neighbors and learn about the history and traditions of Okinawa farming," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Nolan, U.S. Army Garrison Torii Station command Sergeant major. "I look forward to increasing our close ties with our neighbors and the farmers market is another step toward a great relationship."
Before getting the approval to hold the farmers market, a sample of the produce was sent for testing to ensure it passed U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) standards.
"A sample of the produce, including sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, garlic and eggplant, was sent to the U.S. Army Veterinary Services, Okinawa Branch, and analyzed for pesticides and radiological residue to ensure it meets U.S.D.A. standards for food consumption," said Mike Riegert, Environmental Division Chief.
Finally, the farmers will be able to provide their produce right where it is grown: on Torii Station. The first farmers market will be held Friday, July 13 from 3-5 p.m. in the small parking lot next to the 4-way stop at the entrance to Torii Beach.
All sales will be in yen only, so be sure to have plenty of yen with you to purchase this fresh produce directly from the farmers on Torii Station.
(Note: Beginning Friday, July 20, the farmers market will be held in the same location every Friday from 4:30 -- 5:30 p.m. Check the U.S. Army Garrison Torii Station (USAGTS) Facebook page for updates.)