“Tanaka-san of Tempe” is a part-time peasant style for a cool farmer that children desire.

Part-time farmers make up about 70% of the number of farmers in Japan. Although part-time farmers play an important role in agriculture, in recent years this proportion has been decreasing gradually compared to that of full-time farmers (* 1). Meanwhile, there are farmers who are gaining attention by challenging part-time farming with their own style. This is Hideyuki Tanaka from Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Mr. Tanaka is called “Mr. Tanaka of Tempe” by farmers in Kanagawa Prefecture because he processes, produces and promotes Tempe, a food made from fermented soybeans. While working as a site supervisor at a construction site, I grow soybeans, the feedstock for Tempe, through natural farming, and give PR activities and presentations on Tempe. Mr. Tanaka has many faces, but how did you come to your current style?

90% of sales are by personal word of mouth order. Farmers’ communication techniques to “make fans”

Mr. Tanaka has many different faces, can you tell us about your current activities?

I am a part-time farmer in my 7th year of agriculture. Soybeans are grown in Tsukui, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and processed into fermented products called Tempe for sale. In addition, we are planning a food event using Tempe and a presentation on “The Future of Agriculture”, a farming community aimed at becoming discerning farmers.

You’re busy. Can you tell me the schedule for the week?

Everyday, I supervise the site as a company employee in the construction industry. On my days off, I go to fields, attend many events, surf and do music activities. I’m busy, but I still only do part of what I want to do.

At first it seems profitable

What made you start farming?

I have never worked as an office worker since leaving school. I worked as a craftsman at a construction site and started an exploration company at the age of thirty. As the number of employees increased and business efficiency began to grow steadily, the media increasingly talked about agriculture. As a manager, I was interested in agriculture, thinking that it would be profitable to make it a business.

You started farming as a new corporate business.

The fact that my brother-in-law was farming a little earlier also pushed me back. She makes Korean chili herself and sells it to restaurants. At that time, Korean chili was rarely imported and supplies were very short. That’s why domestic Korean chili peppers sell as much as they were produced. While helping with that, I believe this will be a business. I gave my staff regular jobs and started farming myself.

It was a smooth start from the get-go.

However, cheap imported products were born early, the wholesale price dropped to about 1/3. My brother-in-law decided to withdraw immediately, but I wanted to continue, so I decided to take over the land.

A variety of difficulties, but the reason to continue farming

Will you be able to steadily expand your agribusiness after that?

No, that is completely useless. I cannot understand the people around me. First of all, the employees of the main business company took turns quitting. Perhaps I was not satisfied with my passion for agriculture in various fields. In addition, the bride after getting married is also gradually separated. Finally, a year after I started farming, I lost my staff and my wife, and I was alone.

That’s a big pinch

There is also the option to quit farming, leave Tsukui, and continue the company. But I really want to do farming. After actually working in farming for a year, I realized that farming was not a business, but a way of life. In the end, I chose to switch back to the company, continuing to work as a farmer and an employee for a construction company to have a stable life.
I often hear people say, “I’m going to quit sala and start farming”, but in my case I can say “I became a salaried worker to keep farming.”

I was looking for a form of agriculture that was right for me

Please let us know if you have any specific concerns or difficulties with growing crops.

I decided to grow without using pesticides. At first, we planted about 50 to 60 species for the purpose of growing small quantities and many commodities. Besides summer vegetables like tomatoes, I also make habanero and jalapeno.

However, in my case, I have a side job and the land is not too large. In that sense, it is not suitable for the cultivation of many commodities. Tsukui is a mountainous area, and it is difficult to secure a cohesive farmland. While creating a variety of crops, I came up with soybeans by searching for the one that suits me right now.

For seed crops, sowing and harvesting are the main agricultural activities. Since there are no pesticides, there is no need to sprinkle with pesticides, the rest is mowing. Humans only help promote plants’ natural powers. That suits me as a part-time farmer.

How did you obtain technical know-how?

Instead of studying at school or training at an agricultural corporation, I just accumulated a lot of experience for myself. I think the most helpful thing is that I have learned by experiencing mistakes.

Faced with a major turning point, Tempe

Please tell us how Mr. Tanaka produced and sold Tempe?

From my experience up to that point, I had a desire to find something that could become a powerful weapon, instead of small quantities and many items, and compete. When I started growing soybeans, I happened to eat Tempe at a friend’s house and was impressed by how delicious it was.

Did you commercialize it right away?

I immediately negotiated with the Tempe factory and started making Tempe using my own soybeans. However, it took about two years to bring it to market as a product. I got the strong impression that the vegetarians ate instead of meat, and many delicious dishes at the time tasted poorly.

We gradually changed Tempe’s image by recommending it to friends around us, recommending it to restaurants, holding events to eat dishes using Tempe, it eventually goes viral and finally. is to sell. went.

To keep the farmer

Let us know your future prospects.

I have a feeling of crisis that the agricultural population is decreasing. When I got really involved in agriculture, it has never been so interesting. In order to convey its appeal to young people and children, it is important to be “cool”. So three years ago, I joined as an original member of “The Future of Agriculture”, a community of people who want to be discerning farmers. We use SNS (social networking service) to connect “individual” farmers across the country and host various events to convey the coolness of agriculture.

I want to continue to participate in activities related to the future of agriculture and actions that connect people involved in agriculture.

“Because it’s cool, I want to be a farmer”

Mr. Tanaka said, “It was a natural form for me to have agriculture in my daily life, instead of being tied to a side job or a full time job.” There is no overwhelming feeling for agriculture. Maybe the number of part-time farmers with such new perspectives wants to bring agriculture into their lives because it’s interesting and cool may increase in the future.

90% of sales are by personal word of mouth order. Farmers’ communication techniques to “make fans”

Farm Locos


The future of agriculture


Photo provided by LOCO’S FARM

(* 1) Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Statistics on farmers, number of farming households (2000-29) http://www.maff.go.jp/j/tokei/sihyo/data/07. html