Naganuma-based Ray harvests his first crop of "Turkey Red" wheat strain that is over a century old

Married couple Raymond Epp (left) and Aratani Akiko holding Turkey Red wheat together

“Turkey Red” is an old variety of wheat that has existed for longer than a century, and the “Menno Village Naganuma” farm in Central Hokkaido’s Naganuma Town harvested its first crop. This is part of the effort to explore sustainable “regenerative agriculture” options that can withstand an era of climate change.

The farm is run by the married couple Raymond Epp (who goes by Ray) and Aratani Akiko. They grow safe produce through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) system in which members prepay a portion of the production fee for shares of food. The highly inquisitive Ray poured through the latest specialist books from the US and, two years ago, started trying a method of agriculture that integrates sheep grazing and chemical-free, no-till farming with natural fertilizer.

This method of farming is one type of regenerative agriculture. It is thought to decompose a larger amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through the activity of soil microorganisms, and return carbon back into the soil.

Turkey Red is the parent strain of “Norin 10 Wheat”, a strain of wheat developed in Japan that served as the base for the “Green Revolution” aimed at shoring up the global food supply crisis after WWII. It is an old strain that has been around for more than a century, and which Ray’s great-grandfather supposedly put in his luggage when he immigrated to the US from Ukraine. Ray imported seeds from the US, planted the seeds which passed through quarantine to make more seeds, and then planted them to grow wheat. Ray commented, “I felt that a wild strain would have better adaptability and toughness, and also make the soil better.”

The yield is only about half of what standard farming methods would provide, but Ray expressed his enthusiastic motivation by farming that relies mainly on the power of nature, “The only thing we people have to do here is plant the seeds and cut the wheat. The costs are very low, so the yield is fine as it is.”

Even in dramatic rain shortages, the stalks run deep into the ground, so Ray did not see any impact. He is excited about what comes next, saying, “Traditional farming contains hints for thinking about how to approach farming as we move forward. I want to try out even more things.”


Menno Village Naganuma