Tategamori Ark Farm germinated out of one man’s passionate desire to turn Japanese agriculture into an industry with bright career prospects for young people, and preserve it for the next generation. Although the man is no longer with us, his legacy is in sure hands and lives on in the work and products of Tategamori Ark Farm and its staff.
Founder Teruo Hashimoto was born in Fukaya City, Saitama Prefecture. He studied veterinary medicine at university, obtaining a veterinary license. When aged 25, Teruo and his father Fumio founded Hashimoto Farm in their hometown of Fukaya. Hashimoto Farm started as a farrow-to-finish swine producer with 30 sows. In five years the pig farm grew into a farrow-to-finish swine producer with 200 sows.
However, Fukaya, a commuter town of Tokyo, was undergoing rapid urbanization, with growing numbers of large industrial estates and houses being built, even near the pig farm. Teruo, who aspired to a more dynamic mode of agriculture, decided that Fukaya was not the place for further expansion, and handing the operation of Hashimoto Farm over to his younger brother, looked elsewhere for his ideal pig-farming location.
After inspecting many candidate locations, Teruo Hashimoto came upon a piece of land in Fujisawa-cho, Higashi-Iwai-gun (currently part of Ichinoseki City) at the southernmost edge of Iwate Prefecture, close to its border with Miyagi Prefecture. Here he established in 1975 his company, Hashimoto Farm Iwate Bokujo, a farrow-to-finish swine producer with 300 sows. He was aged 28 when he made this fresh start.
After moving from Saitama to Iwate, Teruo actively participated in community meetings and other local gatherings to meet and get to know the local people. He valued personal relationships and interactions and, helped by his outgoing, sociable character, gradually became accepted by the local community and acquainted with many fellow pig farmers.
Teruo Hashimoto continued to dedicate himself to pig farming, enthusiastically pursuing his dreams. Over a period of a decade he turned his business into a farrow-to-finish operation with 1,000 sows. In the process of breeding swine and producing pork, the idea that “food is life,” which is the underlying principle of Tategamori Ark Farm today, started to evolve in the minds of Teruo and his business partner and wife Shizu. “Produce food you can confidently serve to your own beloved family. Only then can you confidently offer products to customers.” This principle went on to be firmly maintained by Teruo Hashimoto and his business.
In 1985 the farm embarked on the production and marketing of hams and sausages handmade from its own pork. The idea was to offer the high-quality pork produced by the farm to greater numbers of customers by turning it into attractive, tasty products.
Pork processing, however, was uncharted waters. To learn the production know-how from scratch, we asked a local ham producer and retailer to teach us the basics of production. In 1986 our charcuterie business Tezukuri Tategamori Ham Kobo was established. Equipment was imported from Germany, the home of ham and sausage making, and, prior to commencing in-house production, the farm invited Jurgen Schmidt, a charcutier from Germany, to come to Japan to teach us essential production techniques.
“With the view of the Alps-like Ou Mountain Range in the distance, the natural environment of Tategamori felt to me very similar to that of the outskirts of Munich. Young staff members were extremely conscientious and enthusiastic about learning from me, which convinced me that the farm would one day produce excellent hams and sausages.” (Jurgen Schmidt)
Responding to Teruo Hashimoto’s desire to produce additive-free products with an emphasis on natural and traditional methods, Jurgen, with his uncompromising standards, and the farm’s young and eager-to-learn staff, dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to their tasks and the shared goal of attaining greater excellence, forming a strong bond between them along the way.
Just as the pig farm and handmade charcuterie business were beginning to get off the ground, the national government commenced developing agricultural land in Fujisawa-cho. Entrusted with 100 hectares of that farmland, Teruo Hashimoto embarked on large-scale crop farming for the first time in his life. He went to study farms in countries adopting advanced modes of agriculture, and struck upon the idea of the “farm market,” inspired by farmers markets in Britain.
A “farm market” is based on the idea of turning a farm from a place dedicated solely to production into a place consumers can visit and enjoy. Such a farm offers farm produce like freshly laid eggs and freshly harvested vegetables on-site, and provides visitors with wide-ranging forms of enjoyment that simultaneously teach them the importance of agriculture. These include on-site learning, leisure activities on the farm, hands-on activities, and shopping for freshly made food. Such farms offer a place of interaction between producer and consumer, and are common in Europe and North America.
Like the charcuterie business, this was an entirely new challenge, and one that Teruo tackled from scratch. After some trial and error, the farm gradually started to gain wider recognition and the project to realize the farm market of Teruo’s dream, named Tategamori Ark Farm, had begun. The project progressed powerfully, propelled by the belief that the ideal form of agriculture and agricultural communities in the 21st century is one in which produce is produced, sold, showcased and enjoyed.
Tategamori Ark Farm opened in 1992. It comprises pastures populated by free-roaming deer and free-range chickens, a restaurant serving delicious pork and vegetables produced on the farm, an herb garden, and a farm market carrying the entire range of products produced on the farm as well as local specialties of Fujisawa-cho, thereby allowing visitors to experience the farm in many different ways. The farm, which also has an open space planted with flowering trees and flowers (established in a bid to fill the farm with flowers by planting 210,000 flowering trees by the 21st century), where visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls or pet ponies, rabbits and sheep, has grown into the exact “farm market” we had envisaged.
Founder Teruo Hashimoto passed away in 2001 due to illness before his efforts came to fruition. But farm staff have picked up where he left off. Instead of blindly pursuing efficiency, Tategamori Ark Farm has adhered to honest methods of production, an approach that has gained the trust of many customers. To maintain this trust, the farm upholds the principle of “food is life,” the legacy of the farm’s founder.
“Ark” derives from the well-known Noah’s Ark from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. Noah built his huge vessel as instructed by God, and saved future generations by taking the seeds of all plant species and one pair of each animal species out of harm’s way during the Great Flood and to a new land. Tategamori Ark Farm was named after Noah’s Ark because of its mission to preserve Japanese agriculture for future generations.