This summer, Stan Willems of the Grieb Ranch experienced a great opportunity to visit Japan. Grieb Ranch has maintained a connection to a Japanese dairy farming family since the 1980’s. This summer’s opportunity started with a student travel conference in Tokyo, Japan. Stan then traveled north to visit with the Japanese family on their small farm that raises feed for its dairy herd near the northern village of Mogami near Shinjo.
Dairy farming output in Japan has increased in the last decade as the Japanese diet has changed and includes more dairy products. Japan has limited land and is very mountainous making agriculture production challenging. Only 12% of the total land mass is available for agriculture and most of that is for rice farming. The northern island of Hokkaido, with its colder climate and larger farm size is the primary area for dairy farming. The products from Hokkaido are primarily used for dairy products. Dairy farms closer to the major cities produce most of the fresh milk that Japanese drink. Japanese dairy herds are small compared to the US, with an average herd size of 50 head.
Stan stayed with fellow farming friends at Rocky Ridge Farms near the village of Mogami which is located North of Tokyo. There he spent a few days plowing and tilling for a future crop, repaired some stairs, and checked out the local agriculture production in nearby, Shinjo. This farm stay was the highlight of the trip as he reconnected this friendship which began in the 1980’s.