Manual Fruit Tree Pollination In Japan (video)

My wife and I have traveled around the globe for the last 5 months and filmed our experiences within the WWOOF! organizations of France, Japan, Italy, and India, and are working on a feature film documenting this journey. “WWOOF! The Movie” is about a collective of organizations that go by the acronym WWOOF: World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

This clip is the first of a three-part segment about manual pollination in Japan. I’m editing this series specifically for web release, but it will also appear in “WWOOF! The Movie” in the full context of our 10-day stay with our host family at Nakagomi Orchards.

WWOOF Japan: Apple Blossoms from Ashley Terry.

As I’m sure many of you have heard, the global bee population is in decline. And while this is an alarming trend, it is not the reason that manual pollination of fruit trees occurs in Yamanashi. The history goes back to the 1940’s. My only source for this history is our host and friend, Kazumasa Nakagomi.

2009 Ashley Terry

Yamanashi Fruit Orchard; 2009 Ashley Terry

Kazusan tells me it was his father that brought manual pollination to Yamanashi. He heard about it while traveling in another prefecture, and decided to try the method in his own orchard. Kazusan remembers how his family would kill the crows (a natural enemy of fruit farmers), then pluck out their feathers and eat them, mainly because they were to poor to afford much else. They took the feathers, bound them with sinew, and then shoved them into a bamboo shoot. They would take these makeshift feather dusters and apply pollen to the flowers on the fruit trees in the Spring. This yielded larger, healthier fruit, even at a time when the bees were more plentiful. You will see this part of the process in the third installment of this video series. Well, except for the whole “crow-killing” business. They don’t still do that….on camera, at least.

2009 Ashley Terry

2009 Ashley Terry

Once other farmers in the area saw the produce on Nakagomi Orchards, they adopted this method of manual pollination. It is highly labor intensive, but the Japanese value quality over quantity, and they don’t mind paying top dollar for it. For example, one cherry in the off-season in Hokkaido can retail for 1,000 yen. ONE CHERRY! That’s 10 freakin’ bucks!

Though our crops will never survive without the wind, bees and other sources of natural pollination, this method of manual cross-pollination will likely yield more produce than relying on solely on Mother Nature.

Ashley Terry graduated from the University of Montana in 2004 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Media Arts. Since then, he has worked in broadcast news, commercial and television production houses, radio, and internet broadcasting. In 2007, he started “AT Films” as a professional wedding and event videography service provider and the business has since branched out into the world of documentary and short film production. He is currently working on a documentary called “WWOOF!” about the collective of organizations that make up the World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms coalition.

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