Tuesday, March 29, 2011

“It’s All Over!” Fukushima Farmer Commits Suicide After Government Bans Produce Consumption (Article by Asahi Shimbun)

On the morning of March 24, in Sukagawa City, Fukushima Prefecture, a 64 year-old farmer hung himself in is own home. Just one day after the Japanese government announced a ban on the consumption of all produce grown in parts of Fukushima Prefecture due to the continuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility.

While discouraged by damage wrought by the quake and tsunami, the man was left utterly distraught by the thought of not being able to harvest the cabbage in his fields. The deceased man’s family says they now must live with the fear of “being killed by nuclear power.”

The quake damaged the farm’s main building and barn, however, some 7,500 heads of cabbage, unscathed by the disaster, were ready to be harvested and sent to market. Even after the government banned spinach, bereaved relatives recall that the farmer remained hopeful, saying, “Depending on how things go, I’ll start harvesting the cabbage.” In preparation, the farmer had already set about repairing the damaged barn.

However, on March 23, upon hearing of the government ban on cabbage, the farmer is reported to have appeared distressed, repeatedly mumbling “It’s all over for Fukushima produce.” The man’s eldest son (35) recalls his father’s mumbling voice: “He probably felt like he just lost everything he had ever worked for during his life.”

The farmer had turned to organic farming some 30 years ago. It took him about ten years to perfect his own special combination of seeding, mulch and soil. He succeeded in growing high-quality produce unprecedented in the region. Very popular with the agricultural association, his cabbage was selected for local elementary school meal programs. Locals say he took pride in growing safe produce: “Food for children demands extra care.”

No formal will was found. The last entry in the farm’s journal is dated March 23. The man’s eldest daughter (41) said, “We have no idea how long this situation will continue. What will become of us? I think everyone involved in agriculture is worried. I pray there will be no more victims like my father.” 

(Translation of the article posted on asahi.com on March 29, 2011. http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0328/TKY201103280468.html)

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