Spring 2022 Farm Relaunch!

14 Jun
Some of our first crops on the new land in Havelock, Ontario. Heirloom head lettuce like Freckles and May Queen are coming along nicely.
Our 50-feet beds are filling up quickly. Japanese Fushimi peppers, Japanese water and Kamo eggplant, colorful bell peppers, head lettuce, sugar snap peas, Nappa cabbage and arugula are all in this image.

Spring 2022 will go down in the records as being Hello Farm’s first growing season in Ontario, Canada. As we relaunch our market garden here in Havelock, we are busy building soil, planting seedlings, building infrastructure, setting up garden plans and weeding schedules, and prepping for our first farmers market. To say we are busy is an understatement. But we are delighted to have access to land, access to water, access to farm equipment, a roof over our heads, and amazing landlords and neighbors, Ian and Tanya. Ian has been diligently helping us set up some of the much needed farm infrastructure like the greenhouse, deer fencing, irrigation, farm machinery, etc. There is no question that we would not have been able to start our market garden on this fallow land so quickly this spring without their support. We are counting our lucky stars!

Ian, our landlord, building the beautiful end walls of the new greenhouse using mostly wood from the farm forest. Ian has long had a vision of hosting resident farmers on his land. So this is a win-win situation 🙂
Ian and Zenryu building our mega tall deer fencing.

Our first sales will happen this week at the Havelock Farmers and Artisan Market. We will be selling every Friday from 1-7pm from June 17 until late October. We also have plans to build a farm gate veggie stand and will be selling to a few restaurants. We are currently seeking more customers and buyers so please pass the word and contact us any time.

Check out the market link! http://www.havelockmarket.ca/about.html

A juvenile Eastern Garter Snake about to molt (note the smoky eye). Our landlords built a snake hybernaculum on-site, which has proven to be very helpful in controlling the rodent population.
We brought our rescue cat, Hinata-chan with us from Japan. He makes a great garden helper. He follows Zenryu around like a puppy dog.

March 2022

5 Mar
A Barred Owl on our farm in Havelock, Ontario.
Ava discing the garden in late autumn to break up the weed roots.
Ian (the land owner) plowing the field for the first time in over a decade!
What the soil looks like after one plough pass. It is very rocky so we have lots of work to do!

What a year it has been!

We finally moved to Canada after a year’s delay due to Covid-19. We were so lucky to sell all our farm infrastructure in Kyoto and have now found some rental farm land here in Havelock, Ontario. The arable land has been fallow for many years and the 60 acres of surrounding forest has been creeping into the field all those years. The forest also provides habitat for tons of local wildlife life deer, rabbits, coyotes and wild turkeys.

Luckily, we found some wonderful landlords who have been looking for land stewards and farmers for quite some time. So, they have been very helpful with building infrastructure like heavy duty deer fencing, and soon, some greenhouses, a farm-gate sales shed, and a harvest/ storage building as well. The forest provides all the wood we need for these structures and Zenryu is particularly loving all the access to beautiful timber for his building projects. In fact, he built our grow light stand for early seedlings as well as hooks and useful features around the house.

Our goal this year is to just grow! Experiment. Build our resources. Try selling at a farmer’s market. Find customers. Fail and succeed. Make lots of observations and then fine tune our crops for the following year. In this way, we can observe and select the most suitable crops for this soil, land, climate and market. We have over 200 varieties of vegetable seeds ready to go! We have already seeded eggplant, peppers, bulb onions, bunching onions, basil, sage, marigold, parsley, celery, garlic chives, and leek under grow lights. In the next few weeks we will start some brassicas like cabbage, Nappa cabbage, broccoli, and probably over 20 varieties of tomatoes.

Zenryu’s hand-made grow light stand made from wood in our forest. Grow little veggies!
Bulb onions and bunching onions germinating well.
Sweet bell peppers, Japanese peppers, and hot peppers have all germinated.
Some of our exciting vegetable varieties. Lots of Asian veggies. Seed orders are so much fun.

Since we moved to Ontario in July, we have focused on settling and sourcing resources and materials. Luckily, we could lean heavily on our farmer friends to guide us towards reliable and reasonably priced companies. It has definitely been an education! Things have changed so much since Ava was farming in Peterborough 14 years ago. With this economy right now during Covid, combined with the crisis in the Ukraine, market prices are outrageous. Buying new equipment and materials for our new business is proving to be crazy expensive. We sure picked a great time to start a new business, didn’t we! Oi! But the good news is that it has forced us to really search high and low for sales, re-used materials, and seek online yard sales. We have found many good resources and continue to be as frugal as possible, often building things ourselves.

Wild turkeys are everywhere in Havelock. And they are huge!
Can you guess what animal this is from? If you guessed fisher, you would be right.
Hinata-chan getting lots of love after his big flight across the world from Japan to Canada.
Hinata-chan even got a home made Christmas present from our niece, Josie 🙂

This 2022 growing season will be a challenge for sure. But we are ready for it! We feel blessed to have family and friends nearby ready to lend a helping hand. We have several farmer’s markets nearby we can sell at and Zenryu is already tapping into the restaurant scene with his vegan culinary skills and salesmanship. He already found our first chef customer in Cobourg! We will keep you all posted with updates as we start sales. We are still in the market application process and are making decisions about where we will focus our sales this year.

Thank you all for your tremendous support. We love you!


Ava and Zenryu

Zenryu praying for a good year in his Yoga Ashram and Zen-Buddhist Temple.
Shinto purification ritual ceremony to pray for a good first year in Havelock, Ontario.
Zenryu wearing his traditional Buddhist Monk ceremonial robes to pray for a good first year on this land.
Ava stoking the ceremonial fire to purify the farm field for a good first year of growing.

Unprecedented Times

26 Jul

Forest Green Tree Frog
(Moriaogaeru) protecting our sunflowers.

Well, our plans to move to Canada are on hold for the time being. As with many business sectors, we have also been affected by Coronavirus. We decided in late spring to stay another summer in Japan, possibly longer depending on the pandemic and the challenges of moving across the globe during a crisis. We had not planned for our early spring crops or early seedlings like peppers, onions, parsley, and eggplant. Luckily, we were able to source some seedlings from farmer friends and our gardens were filled by the end of June. We have also cut down on the number of gardens by giving some of them to our apprentices, Chie-san and Keiko-san, whom will eventually take over all the fields when we finally leave.

We are in a bit of a state of limbo at the moment; ready to leave at any time, but also ready to stay another year. But we have noticed that most people around the world are feeling the same feelings of uncertainty at this time. We take some comfort in knowing we are not alone in these challenges. We are grateful to have a roof over our heads, food on the table and loyal customers still keen to buy our crops. Food sovereignty has never been more important than now. With extreme weather causing more crop failures globally, and with global food systems being affected by this pandemic, sourcing healthy, sustainable, local food is critically important. In fact, there is already a food shortage in Kansai. We are so grateful that we save our own seed, have local buyers and are able to continue contributing to local food sustainability while we are still here in Kyoto.

No doubt, we will continue on this important journey when we finally move to Canada as well. Whenever that may be….

Happy to see the bees!

We grew some early greenhouse corn for the first time this year. So yummy! But the aphids were fierce.

November 2019 Update

3 Nov

Big News! Hello Farm Organics is moving to Canada!


This is our last autumn here in Kyoto as we prepare to move to Ontario next June, 2020. We are still looking for an organic grower to take over our farm house and land lease here in Kyoto. Our local apprentice, Chie-San, will continue growing on some of our land but we still have several large gardens available, with excellent soil, and a well-equipped farm house and workshop/harvest room. We are looking for someone/people who can continue our legacy of local organic veggie production in the Keihoku region. We are prepared to hand over equipment, introduce you to potential buyers, introduce you to neighbors, etc. It is important to us that our small operation continue to support the local community and organic movement even after our departure. Any interested Japan-based farmers are invited to contact us. hellofarmorganics (at) gmail (dot) com. We will not be sponsoring any work visas for foreign farmers.

Update #1

To clarify, our goal is to support a “new” or “relocating” organic farmer by providing some much needed infrastructure and startup support. We know how hard it is to get started with farming. There is so much startup equipment and resources needed before even dreaming of an income. So we will be prioritizing organic growers when deciding our successors. Please consider this before contacting us with inquiries. We have worked really hard to build up wonderful organic soil over 8 years. It is important to us that we pass it on to loving hands. Thank you for your understanding.

Update #2

To clarify, we are not for sale. We hope to pass our lease over to new tenants with similar goals as ours. We simply hope that the soil and infrastructure will continue to be used as we have used it. Otherwise, we will clear everything we built up over the years.

Update #3

More clarifications…

もし興味がある方は、email にて来られる前に必ずご連絡ください。農作業の合間に家、農場の説明をいたします。よろしくお願い致します。

If you are interested, please contact us through email first. Please do not show up at our farm unannounced expecting a guided tour. We are still a fully functioning farm and business and are very busy with autumn harvesting. Visits can be made by appointment only. Thank you for your understanding.

Happy farming!

Ava and Zenryu

Spring 2018

29 Jun

This is our best spring at Hello Farm Organics to-date. We’ve managed to plant all our seedlings on time this year, as opposed to a month late in past years. We are a bit notorious for planting very leggy tomato seedlings because we simply cannot get them in the ground quick enough. But this year, we increased our WWOOFing support to include 2 volunteers at a time, which has made all the difference. The expression, “many hands make light work” really applies here. In one week alone we got all out eggplant, peppers and tomatoes properly staked, supported and trellised before they flopped over from any heavy winds. A big thank you goes out especially to Anna and Johan from France 🙂 We’ve also reduced our number of harvest days this spring to open up our Saturdays as “fieldwork days” instead. This has meant 4 sets of hands (sometimes more) were on deck every Saturday for most of May and June. This made a huge difference in getting garden beds ready, seeding and transplanting done, potting up seedlings and weeding on time. With a small shift in our schedule, we will likely reap the benefits later on in sales because our yield should be higher due to less stressed out plants and less weed competition. Hooray!

Other News

Unfortunately we’ve had to discontinue our Veggie Box Program this 2018 growing season. This is a direct result of fee changes made by our delivery service provider, Japan Post. This past winter, JP changed all their shipping fees, exponentially. This has made the cost of sending our veggie boxes through refrigerated trucking too expensive and unsustainable for our box customers. Luckily, we have found alternate sales outlets, but this has meant big challenges for many small farms in Japan who depend on shipping their crops around the country. If you are still interested in receiving a weekly mixed veggie box, please contact our main distributor, https://www.on-the-slope.com/english . They continue to provide a veggie box service for over 800 customers around Japan and have been able to keep shipping costs down out of sheer volume. Please tell them we sent you! This also supports us because we contribute veggies to their box program as well.

We continue to sell wholesale directly to restaurants, chefs, local michi-no-eki (roadside farm market), small veggie shops, juice bars, etc. If you are interested in buying from us, please contact us directly by email at hellofarmorganics (at) gmail (dot) com.

Happy spring everyone!

Ava and Zenryu



Soil Microbial Biodiversity

2 Mar


By far one of the best events for Hello Farm Organics this winter was all about our soil. Not gonna lie, we work really hard to improve, maintain and care for our soil. Its hands-down the most important part of growing healthy, tasty, and hardy organic food. We have been blessed again this year with support from Share The Love for Japan. One of their projects is to support organic farmers in improving soil conditions. We were able to send soil samples to DGC Technologies  for testing, specifically for beneficial soil bacteria through their Soil Biodiversity Project. This is the second year we’ve been able to do this and wow, we have learned so much! In all honesty, this is still all very new for us, but it turns out its pretty new for most of the world. According to DGC’s website, they are one of the only research companies doing soil microbial biodiversity testing on a commercial scale for farmers, in the world! I also noticed they use some NASA technologies in their testing. How cool is that! Here’s how it works.

17078171_1347438201997167_1772376285_n 17102050_1347438328663821_1145370290_n

These images show two micro plates, which are 95 bacteria cultures each (plus one control I assume) tested using the soil sample we sent. We collected soil from 20 locations in our main garden, at about 20-30cm deep, mixed it well, and mailed it to DGC Technologies in Tsukuba, Japan. The first (top) image is from our 2016 soil sample, which was concluded to be excellent soil with an average of 1.2 million active detectable beneficial bacteria, per 1g of soil. The second image is from 2017 and shows an average of 1.5 million per 1g. We have learned that healthy soil with an average between 1 and 1.3 million bacteria is ideal for producing delicious veggies. But 1.5 million is a different dimension in which compost ‘may’ not even be needed. The bacteria produces all the nutrition the plants require. So in other words, we have super amazing healthy soil! Here is a breakdown of the levels. (sorry, only Japanese)


We have also learned that the reality is, only 1% of the bacteria in soil is currently measurable, meaning 99% of the billion + microorganism in 1g of soil is not even on our radar yet in terms of classification and identification. Its just too many! This test has been developed to measure only an average, for only beneficial bacteria, at only about 1% of the possible bacteria, in 1g of soil (over 95 trials). I’m not sure if I am explaining this correctly, or if I completely understand the process yet. I also get lost in translation with so much technical Japanese language. But being a graduate of Biological Sciences, I am super keen to learn more and decode all this fascinating information. My weary Japanese husband must feel like he is on trial with all my translation questions!


I have to be honest, I am astonished at what we have been gifted here. In Canada (when I was last farming their in 2008), the only soil testing available to my organic farm business was a standard soil test that covered pH, micronutrients, Nitrogen, soil tilth and structure, extractable nutrients like Phosphorus and Potassium, and of course organic matter. This was all very valuable information when planning our next crops, amendments and processes to add to the garden. But learning about the living microbial biodiversity within our soil has really opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about farming.


Because this is relatively newly available technology for farmers (and still very expensive), there is growing excitement and learning to be had around how soil microbial biodiversity can be utilized to its full potential. When we started farming here in Kyoto about 6 years ago, we had heard rumblings about the benefits of bacteria from our no-till farmer friends, the local organic movement, even conventional-growing neighbours that added interested amendments like sesame seed husks, rice husks, burnt bamboo and rice ash, etc. to their soil.  Apparently all these things promote healthy bacteria in the soil. Japan is also a culture of fermented foods, with well-known and understood knowledge of the benefits of gut bacteria and its connection to human health. So I am guessing that its a natural leap to connect this to soil bacteria as well. I mean, it makes sense to me now to imagine that a healthy biodiversity of gut bacteria, and a healthy biodiversity of soil bacteria would both reap amazing benefits. Our next step is to figure out how to keep this trajectory going, how to manage it, and how to maximize on its potential for high yielding, delicious organic vegetables.


So how did we achieve this level of diverse beneficial bacteria in our soil? Well….



We of course adopt and adapt to whatever knowledge we have gleaned over the years from our neighbours. But in all honesty, we don’t feel like experts even remotely. We are figuring things out as we go. We love experimenting. We prioritize the soil, conscientiously. But here are some ways we think MAY have contributed to this awesome and unexpected outcome. (and by the way, we did have some problems in that garden, so it was in no way perfect)

  • Compost– We add our own home made weed compost as much as possible to our soil. We also add other composts like bark and leaf compost when we can, sometimes animal manures that’s been composted, but we have really scaled-back on animal products on the farm. The bark compost bag we buy even states that a small amount incorporated in the mix will inoculate the soil with beneficial bacteria. If our weed compost heaps do not reach hot enough temperatures to kill weed seeds during the composting process, we have discovered that burying the compost deep down the centre of the bed is sufficient enough to allow our crop roots to reach the nutrients, but deep enough that the weed seed cannot outcompete. Now we are making the connection that the plant diversity in our weed compost, much like Biodynamic techniques, may offer lots of beneficial bacteria as well.



  • Garden bed prep- For most beds we always add amendments, water, rototill, and securely cover with clear plastic at least 2-4 weeks prior to seeding. I know, this is a lot of planning, but so worth it. We have noticed a huge difference in lowered pest outbreaks like flea beetles and aphids, and less weeds. The idea is the plastic superheats the top layer of the bed, killing the pest larvae and eggs that live there, but simultaneously allows beneficial bacteria and fungi to grow deeper underground, in warm moist conditions. Once we seed or transplant into this bed, the roots of our veggie crop will quickly have access to the bacteria already setting up shop below.


  • Crop rotation– We are diligent about not growing the same family of plants in one location for two consecutive seasons. We carefully map, record and plan what crops grow where, in a succession of completely different families. For example: a leaf crop follows a root crop, which follows a brassica crop, which follows a legume, which follows a fruit crop, etc. This ensures that nutrients, micro nutrients, and now possibly bacteria, are not depleted or starved out, and keeps the soil from getting “tired” with repeating crops.


Zenryu is carefully planning using the garden map for each bed.

  • Companion planting– We never shy away from experimenting with plants that may grow well together. It saves space, can attract beneficial wildlife like bees and frogs, and is ideal for successional harvesting; like harvesting the quick growing lettuce before the green onions (see picture below). We’ve read and learned that many plants produce stronger, tastier fruits when planted next to a companion that has a symbiotic relationship with the other. In some cases, they even protect each other from pests, but we’ve also read that their roots intertwine and help each other access beneficial fungi and bacteria. For example; basil grows well with tomatoes, carrots grow well with tomatoes, beens with squash, etc. We’ve learned that companions still need room though. Don’t plant them too close! (this picture is a bit too close in our opinion)


  • Green manures and grains– Similar to crop rotation, we have also learned that letting an intensely managed veggie garden rest for a season here and there is hugely beneficial. For example, the field we had tested for microbial biodiversity was an organic rice field 3 seasons prior. We firmly believe that this is critical for “resting” the soil and in turn, probably helping the bacteria flourish, too. Green manures are similar but are often grown for the sole purpose of adding nitrogen or other nutrients to the soil, and not for harvesting grains. For example: growing clover, oats, wheat, buckwheat or alfalfa, and ploughing them into the soil before they produce grains, would be considered a green manure. We are now really wondering if our year of rice played a big role in this year’s test results. What do you think?


This is the field we recently had tested for microbial biodiversity. Three years ago, our amazing volunteers helped hand weed it when it was in organic rice production. That was the hardest crop we have EVER grown. Truth!


This is the same field last year.

We are obviously thrilled at this amazing news that our soil rocks, but we are very much aware that we are still learning a lot. We can’t say for certain that all of these techniques are directly contributing to healthy microbial biodiversity, but given our soil test results, we now feel compelled to think that our techniques very likely contributed in some way. There’s also the sheer dumb luck of acquiring great land, clean mountain water, clean air, lots of worms, and great animal and wildlife biodiversity in this part of Kyoto. We can’t wait for spring to arrive so we can forge ahead and keep studying this fascinating micro universe under our feet.

Snow, Greenhouse, Miso

1 Mar

Gosh we learn so much, every single day. There is certainly never a dull moment at Hello Farm Organics. Here are some highlights from the past 3 months.

In the autumn, we scored big with some beautiful veggies and fungi. It was our best year for daikon radish varieties and turnip. We were especially carful about preparing the beds 2 to 4 weeks before seeding, which we now know if absolutely necessary in our organic garden. We add all soil amendments, water and rototill the beds before covering them with clear plastic. This allows the top layer of the bed to superheat, killing pest insect larvae and eggs, as well as some weed seed. Trust us, it gets too hot to touch some days! But this treatment also supports beneficial bacteria and fungi to establish themselves in the warm humid conditions deeper underground, giving seedlings tons of nutrition as they grow.

Although there was tons of snow, that didn’t stop the Nappa cabbage and baby salad mix from growing strong under extra hoops and floating row cover, and of course in the greenhouses. We never heat our greenhouses and rely on passive solar heating, tunnels with floating row cover and plastic to hold the heat overnight. We also strategically place lots of large water containers inside the greenhouse. Having standing water in a greenhouse can help moderate the climate inside by slowly releasing heat overnight, and then cooling the hot greenhouse during the day. Its a win-win.

Unfortunately, the deer were getting very aggressive at destroying our fencing to reach our veggies. We had record amounts of snow this year making it hard for deer to find food. They were so hungry, the even started digging up plastic row cover to reach the daikon radish underground, like a wild boar might do. Crazy! They ate 100% of our kale, cabbage, broccoli and chicory. The snowman is meant to scare them. Didn’t work. And yes, that is a sling shot.

We decided to do a little professional development at The Little Farm Thailand this winter. It was a wonderful sharing and learning experience for us. We learned about raising chickens, goats, and ducks, and a bit about organic fruit production like bananas, papaya and pineapple. As you can see, they have lots of animal friends on the farm helping us out.

Unfortunately, when we returned to Japan we discovered one of our greenhouses had collapsed under the record-breaking amount of snow in our area. Many of our neighbours also lost their greenhouses. We’ve since learned that older greenhouses tend to collapse first because of algae growing on the roof plastic, which snow clings to, rather than sliding off, like on new plastic. In the pictures, you can see how we had to crawl under the collapsed snow-filled centre of the greenhouse to harvest some of our baby salad mix. Unfortunately, we cannot save this greenhouse as its structural integrity is completely compromised. But we will salvage valuable metal poles and likely keep the walls as a barrier agains wildlife. Roof’s gotta go!

A highlight for us was learning how to make miso with our good friend Jun Hoshino-sensei. It took 10 adults, 6 kids, 3 hours, 25Kg cooked soy beans, 25Kg koji (fermented rice), and 5Kg salt to make 50Kg of miso. OMG it was already tasting good even though it needs a minimum of 8 months to ferment!!! Honestly, learning together offer the best memory-makers.






Winter Is Coming…

29 Nov

We are so ready for the winter! We feel so blessed to have had another fruitful and successful growing season. We managed to dodge the typhoons, earthquakes, flooding and land slides this year! There is no shortage of challenges though, with a peek in the flee beetle and cutworm populations, not to mention a rogue monkey! But overall, its been a great season.

We’ve acquired a bit more land nearby to expand again next year, 2017. This land will also give our main gardens a much-needed break. We plan to seed cover crops and green manures like oats, buckwheat and possibly wheat to encourage the soil to recover from the intensive vegetable production over the past 5 years. Certainly some clover in the mix, too.

With two full-time farmers on the loose at Hello Farm Organics, plus amazing regular volunteers through the WWOOF Japan network, its no wonder our gardens felt more under control than ever. Blessings!!!!

Pictures say more than words:

We save over 30 varieties of heritage tomato seeds now. This is Isis Candy Cherry.



Our Veggie Box program grew this year. We hope to continue developing this program next summer.



Left side= 100% loss to flea beetles. Right side= 100% successful harvest. You win some, you lose some!


Share The Love Japan continues to be some of our recurring customers and supporters. Many hands make light work.


Cilantro (aka Coriander) (called Pakchi in Japan)


Some of our garden helpers doing their job. Thanks, guys!



Colourful veggie mixes is one of our signature things now…


Nadia from Australia helped us plant 0ver 1000 bulb onions. Yet another amazing volunteer.


We now also sell at this charming veggie shop called Soil Annex, a branch of our main distributors; www.on-the-slope.com


Black, white, red inside, red outside- all daikon radish! And some carrots.


Greenhouse full of baby salad mix.


Koshin Daikon; white skin but fuchsia pink on the inside.


Welcoming Change

11 Sep

The one constant in life is change. Since spring, we’ve grown our customer base to include stores in Kyushu, Tokyo, and Osaka. We now sell at the local michinoeki (local farm store) as well. We feel so blessed that we’ve been able to expand this year. This is in part due to being better organized and experienced growing in Japan, but also because we now have two full-time farmers working the land! Ava has decided to take a sabbatical from teaching for a while to concentrate on developing the farm. To that end, we are also now ready to expand our veggie box program. Some of you may have noticed we did not advertise our box program this spring. This was because we were too overwhelmed with maintaining the garden and keeping our current customers happy. But now, with two farmers, we feel much better prepared to grow in other ways as well.

Here are some highlights from this season so far:

  • We are expending our food box program and general sales markets, including the local farmer’s market store. Please tell your friends who may be organic and heirloom vegetable enthusiasts. Thanks!


This is an example of one of our food boxes from September, 2016. (beets, swiss chard, acorn squash, UFO zucchini, colourful potatoes, Genovese basil, mixed sweet peppers, mixed heritage tomatoes, hot peppers, mixed eggplant, baby salad mix, lemon basil, Japanese sweet peppers)14102437_671469483000812_4569010224098244907_nWe’ve had to create labels to inform our new customers about who we are. These packages of colourful sweet peppers were sold at Woody Keihoku, our local farmer’s market store.

  • We’ve continued experimenting with more heritage varieties of vegetables this year including Japanese heritage spinach, a few new tomato varieties, Japanese piman peppers, makuwa musk melon, several baby salad mix varieties, dry beans, Japanese native mint, white okra, a Japanese Blue Hubbard winter squash, and sweet potatoes.


This is Japanese heritage spinach seed. Very interesting shape, no?

  • We’ve had our volunteer roster filled for the entire season, months in advance. We feel so lucky to constantly be blessed with great help through WWOOF Japan.


Some of our awesome volunteers. We love you!

  • We will have our first Girl Scouts group visit us this September, from Kobe, to enjoy a farm tour and garden project and program, such as planting seeds and seedlings.
  • We had a bumper crop of sweet peppers.
  • We are now both full-time farmers. Yeah!


Ava and Zenryu, the main farmers.

  • We will be exploring some new green manures (cover crops for soil improvement and crop rotation) such as buckwheat (soba), winter wheat, and clover.
  • We are considering adding another tambo (rice field-turned garden) to our garden roster for the spring of 2017. This is mainly to give our primary garden a break from the intensive vegetable production it has given us for the past 5 years. It is important to rest land using green manures or cover crops on a 4 or 5 year rotation if possible.
  • Like always we’ve added more varieties of self-collected seed to our list, including 6 varieties of peppers, 5 varieties of string and dry beans, more tomatoes, 4 kinds of basil, bulb and green onion, 4 varieties of lettuce and white okra.


Some of the seeds we have saved this year.

Like always, thank you so much to all our awesome customers. We could not survive without your business and support. Nor could we afford to both be working full-time on the farm. Big changes! Big adventure! As one of our amazing WWOOFers once told us, “no risk, no fun!”

Ganbarimasho! We can do it!

Spring Awakens Early

12 Mar

So long winter! Climate change is really showing itself this year with such warm days in mid-winter. We have experienced the warmest winter yet in our 5 years here in Keihoku, Kyoto. Although this picture shows a wintery Keihoku landscape, the total snowfall was also very low.


On the one hand, warmer weather means we can get started in the garden earlier than usual, but it also means that pests like cutworms get an advantage. Deeper frost and lower temperatures can help alleviate some of the pest pressures on our crops but eliminating some of their larvae and eggs. But we are anticipating a challenging spring given the warmer weather, which means higher survival rates of a variety of insects. Our game plan is to use increasingly more floating row cover to protect our young plants.

Seedlings have begun sprouting under our full-spectrum grow lights with eggplant and peppers being the first to germinate in February.

In early March we also seeded 22 varieties of heritage tomatoes, along with parsley, basil, kale and head lettuce. The cooler weather crops will get a head start this year with warmer days.


In fact, it has been so warm, that we spotted amphibian action already! These are Japanese fire belly newts (Cynops pyrrhogaster) , win the salamander family. These babies were found under some rotting logs in our garden.


This year, we will once again offer our weekly organic food box program to families wishing to receive veggies directly from the farm. We will start the program in June. Families can purchase weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, depending on their needs. There is no long-term commitment required, keeping the box program flexible for traveling families over the summer holidays. Simply contact us one week prior to your desired deliver date and we will reserve you a spot. Please visit our Facebook Page at Hello Farm Organics for more regular updates on our organic veggie box program.


Thank you, On The Slope!

27 May

IMG_0122Here is a fantastic article written about our partners and primary distributors, On The Slope (Sakanotochu). They were featured in the online journal, Cultivated Days. It is beautifully written and really highlights their innumerable strengths as an organization, worldly vision, sustainability projects, and relentless commitment. We are honoured to be partners with, and supported by them. Ganbatte Nippon!


As you will read, On The Slope have planted many seeds for the future of food security in Japan.

Thank you, On The Slope!

2015 Veggie Box Program

20 May


Dear new and returning Hello Farm Organics customers,

We are delighted to announce that our 2015 Veggie Box Program is ready to start on June 1st.

This year, we are offering a medium-sized, mixed veggie box for 3000 yen. Each box will contain about 8 to 12 different vegetables. The veggies are chosen and harvested by us and will come in quantities that reflect seasonal availability. Based on customer feedback, our box can supplement the diet of two adults for about a week. If you have a bigger family, we can put the equivalent of two boxes worth of veggies into one larger box for the same shipping fee.

We will continue using the Japan Post refrigerated delivery service as it is the cheapest we can find in our rural area. Shipping prices depend on where you live.

  • Kansai deliveries are 1200 yen
  • Kanto deliveries are 1400 yen
  • Others, please inquire.

Deliveries will continue to arrive on Monday evenings, after 8pm.

Our box program is designed for flexibility. Some customers reserve weekly, while others buy once per month and skip July while they are away on holidays. The choice is yours. We recommend reserving the dates you want well in advance (a month ahead is advised) to ensure availability, as we have limited space. We reserve on a first come, first serve basis, with a minimum one week’s notice.

Our first deliveries will start on Monday, June 1st, then continue every Monday after that until December, or when the snow is too deep to dig out veggies!

Payment options will include money transfers at your bank’s ATM or by mail. We will email you instructions when we confirm your order reservation.

If you are not already doing so, please following us on Facebook at Hello Farm Organics for frequent updates and photos. We sometimes advertise sales for those interested in bulk orders. For example, last year we sold slightly imperfect tomatoes at a discount for juicing and canning. Please contact us with questions and reservations. Tell a friend who may also be interested in our veggie box program. We would appreciate it! We look forward to hearing from you and sharing our vegetables.

Happy eating!

Ava and Zenryu

heart komatsuna

Making A Case for Biodiversity

25 Oct

These have been epic times for Hello Farm Organics! We welcomed our first school group last weekend. The Junior High School students from Osaka YMCA International School spent a few days exploring the biodiversity found both on the farm and in the surrounding forest and rivers in the Keihoku, Kyoto area. There were many first time experiences for both the students and us, notably handling bugs, digging sweet potatoes, getting really muddy, night hiking, catching salamanders, and seeing and eating organic veggies. Our purpose for the farm overnight visit was to: explore the function of biodiversity on an organic farm. To do this the students did the following:

– garden tour and exploration
– digging sweet potatoes
– planting garlic
– sowing radish seeds
– night hike
– stream study
– forest hike

Through their hands-on exploration, the students discovered that biodiversity has an important role in maintaining a balance between garden helpers and garden pests. They learned that biodiversity provides and supports symbiotic relationships among plants and animals, which help food crops grow. For example; companion plants form microbial relationships in their root systems and adding rice mulch provides not only moisture retention properties, but also fungal helpers for decomposition and soil nutrition. Following are some of the students’ written reflections. Enjoy!

Yuka’s Reflection (Grade 6)
I think biodiversity is important to both people and nature because bugs that hinder farming and destroy crops and vegetables come from an imbalance of nature. If the imbalance of nature gets worse, we humans might not be able to survive because there will be a lot of pests that make it harder for farmers to grow crops, and farmers will decrease because there is an imbalance of nature.

On my night hike, I saw the larva of a firefly, even though we were walking without our flashlights on. I was very surprised because I have never seen the larva of a firefly in my whole life, and October is too cold for fireflies to thrive because fireflies are out in June, not October. When I was planting garlic seeds on the first day, I felt that living on a farm is extremely tough because we need to work even though it’s raining.

On my morning hike, I went in the river and saw a lot of wildlife in the river. I found out there is a tree with its branches covered with a lot of thorns, and I saw a plant that I have never seen or heard of that has a lot of spikes. As we went further, it became deeper. It went over my boots, and that caused my socks to get wet. As a result, I decided to take off my wet socks and enjoy the water in my boots. It felt very squishy and weird to have a lot of water in my boots. It felt very cold to go in the river. At first, I was scared to get in, but I started to get used to the river, and the cold water. After our river hike, we went nature hiking. We had to go over many obstacles in the wild. As soon as I got to the place we were going to go taiko drumming, my legs hurt because I had taken off my socks earlier. Later, we went taiko drumming. It felt good to suck in the fresh air. During our taiko drumming session in the wilderness and the peace and quiet of Kyoto in the countryside, we learned a lot of new songs on our Japanese taikos, and we memorized them all. It was very exciting because I found a lot of biodiversity in the wild, such as fungi.



Taiyo’s Reflection (Grade 6)
I went to Hello Farm Organics. It was really interesting. In this farm they don’t use medicine [pesticides] to kill bugs. From this I learned how important the life cycle is and we even saw an ecosystem in rivers and forest. Ecosystems is the connection between bugs, animals, plants and people, like pollinating bees or bugs eating bad bugs. If one animal or bug is gone the ecosystem will change. I could do things that I can’t do around here in city. I could breathe clean air and see lots of trees. I looked at different kinds of biodiversity and we had a chance to dig sweet potatoes and plant garlic seeds. We even played drums and it was really fun. For dinner and lunch, the food was all vegetarian and it tasted delicious. You can learn why the food is all vegetables, top. Doing all of this I learned how hard it is to live in the countryside. It was very interesting.


Ji Young’s Reflectin (Grade 6)
I learned that biodiversity is important to farmers, especially to the ones growing organic foods because they need to have some kind of repellent that doesn’t include medicine [pesticides] so that the bugs won’t come and eat up their vegetables or fruits. But because biodiversity is all around the farm all the time, a ladybug, for example can come and eat the pesky aphids or pollinate flowers to make fruits and vegetables.

I experienced sweet potato digging. It was raining quite heavily, so we had to dig in the rain. We cut off stems for food, and I know for sure that the sweet potato stems are delicious because I eat them in my home country, Korea. I thought it would be fun so my friends and I were digging, cutting and picking on the farm in the rain for hours. We all got very wet when we went back home. We ate cookies Mrs.Richardson had baked for us with tea. It was delicious eating it after working so hard.

I also experienced going up the river. I was wearing crocs so my feet were freezing cold but I didn’t care because my feet soon got used to the water temperature. As we were starting to walk up the river, my friend and I found a snake. I was so glad that the snake was a dead one. Whew~ Then we got in the water and started to look under stones which is a habitat crabs were most likely to live. I found big ones, small ones, teeny-tiny ones, and gigantic ones. We also found tiny fish.




Jia’s Reflection (Grade 6)

I went to Hello Farm Organics and I saw many things there. First, I saw a lots of insects and I felt scared of them. But after I kept walking on the farm, I got more brave with the bugs. On the farm I saw many kinds of vegetables and most of them were edible. There were different smells, shapes, and tastes. Also there were insects all around the farm. I learned that they are important because they need to pollinate the flowers, but insects eat all the good parts so it’s not good for plants. I also saw plants with all holes in it because there were not enough predator insects around. After we finished our tour of the farm, we tried to dig out the sweet potato and cut the sweet potato stems for dinner. But, it was really hard I got muddy and dirty.

After that we did our seeding. Seeding was much more easier than digging. Seeding is the main part for growing so I needed to put complicated soil like compost in the ground, and push down the garlic cloves. When I finished planting I washed my hands and legs with the mountain water. It was fun because we caught many frogs, salamanders, and crabs in there.

On this field trip to Hello Farm Organics, we got more friendly with the nature there and I got more brave with the bugs. It was the great trip ever!


Mahiro’s Reflection (Grade 6)

I went to Hello Farm Organics. When I got there I was excited. In the garden I saw some beetle larvae. When I saw the larvae, I felt like it was weird because, one patch of radish was totally fine but another one looked terrible. Then I learned that there are not enough predator insects around because of pesticides. This can cause predators of the larvae, like ladybugs to stay away so the larvae eat the radish leaves. I thought biodiversity was important because without a healthy environment, the beetle larvae will be out of balance without predators, and find other plants to eat and at the end all of the vegetables will be eaten by the larvae.

At the end of the trip I felt sad leaving the farm because I wanted to go through the forest and also go up the river more because it was fun having to look at nature and biodiversity in the countryside.



Hayato’s Reflection (Grade 6)
I found a skull of a boar when hiking. There was green moss on it. It was a great experience to watch how the skull work. This connects to biodiversity because if an animal dies, the bone would give nutrients to the dirt. So the plants grow and insects would come to eat the plants and the good dirt would make the tree grow so a woodpecker, bird or an insect can live in that tree. Then humans would cut off the trees and use that to make lots of different technologies and when that human dies he would be buried in the dirt and give back dirt nutrients. This would make a connection and a rotation [life cycle] of biodiversity.

In the garden, there were lots of worms. When I picked it up, Matthew, the farm helper, spoke rapidly, “Don’t kill it!” Matthew explained that worms make the dirt good and healthy. I already know that worms take the dirt in to their bodies and make new dirt called castings. Its like compost. We dug sweet potatoes, too. Large ones and a tiny ones. It rained a lot but it was very fun doing it using the shovel. It was hard to dig it slowly because I might cut off the sweet potatoes into half. But this was a good experience to find out the perspective of a farmer who grows crops and comparing the citizens who eat the farmer’s crops.





2014 Veggie Box Startup

9 Jul

Dear Hello Farm Organics customers,

Spring started out very well with the addition of a new vegetable garden, growing rice for the first time, and welcoming WWOOFers from around the world.


Unfortunately, June brought us a violent hail storm, which wiped out a lot of our crops and damaged most.




We have since recovered by replacing seedlings, re-seeding and repairs. Although it caused a delay in our sales and our veggie food box program, the happy news is that we are now ready to start the box program. This year, we will be offering one size of box, with about 8 to 12 different, seasonal varieties of organic vegetables. The box is suitable for two adults and will last about one week. If you have a big family, we can ship the equivalent of two boxes worth of veggies in one larger box. We use a refrigerated delivery service and your veggies will arrive on Monday nights, wherever you are in Japan.


The box will cost 3000yen, plus a shipping fee depending on your location.
Kansai area is 1200yen
Kanto area is 1400yen

We will start deliveries on Monday, July 21st.

Please email us at hellofarmorganics(at)gmail(dot)com if you would like to order a box or would like further information.

Happy eating!


14 Mar

We are in full spring seeding mode now. The snow is finally receding and we are able to start digging out overwintered crops like cabbage, baby salad mix, onions and garlic. image

Our indoor grow lights are already full with flats of seeded kale, leek, sweet peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. Always being creative, we found that our heating blanket works nicely to keep the soil a bit warmer for quicker germination. image
Once the seedlings have their secondary or tertiary leaves, we ‘harden’ them off outside for the first time on overcast days. This allows the seedlings a bit of time to adjust to factors like wind and cooler nights, without the harsh UV rays that can burn the tender leaves.

Our first spring seedlings are kale.  This year, we hope to grow a lot more kale to keep up with the demand. Apparently juicing it is all the rage.

Our first spring seedlings are kale. This year, we hope to grow a lot more kale to keep up with the demand. Apparently juicing it is all the rage.

Soon, we will start moving them into cold frames, which are like mini greenhouses, but inexpensive to make. Please watch for updates as we approach our veggie box start date some time in mid-June.
Happy planting!

Year End Reflections

26 Dec

Hello Farm Organics would like to send out a warm and heartfelt thank you to all our customers, volunteers, retailers, friends and family who have supported us in our second full year of production here in Keihoku, Kyoto. We very much feel we are still learning the local climate, pest management techniques and soil fertility balance, and look forward to our ongoing learning next year. Overall, it was a successful year, full of events, triumphs, challenges, good times, and hard work. Here are some highlights.

In September, we became a registered WWOOF farm (World Wide Organization of Organic Farms). We have already had some wonderful memory-making moments with excellent helpers. Gambarou!



All season we were constantly amazed at how the natural world finds a balance within our own garden. This Mud Dauber wasp is a natural a welcome predator, helping our Kale and brasica plants survive moth caterpillar attacks. Thanks, guys!


In November, there was flooding in the Kyoto area due to a typhoon. Luckily, we only sustained some damage to leafy crops and all our tomato trellises fell down. We consider ourselves lucky as many local fields were devastated by mud slides.




We enjoyed exploring new and exciting varieties of fruits and vegetables for our customers.  These Purple Tomatillo were excellent for salsa. Next year, we plan to grow organic rice for the first time, as well as Elephant Garlic, and more.








We also continued saving as much of our own seed as possible. In this picture, we discovered that Okra seed can cross pollinate, meaning different varieties need to be planted separately, at greater distances from one-another.




We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season. We really look forward to garden adventures in 2014 as our community grows and flourishes. Thank you, everyone!!!

Summer Update

5 Aug


Welcome to Aurora, our home stay summer student!

Hello Farm has had the wonderful chance to host a summer home stayer from Canada. Aurora is a high school student with an interest in Art and Japanese culture. She has been helping out in the garden with weeding, harvesting, saving seeds and planting while here in Kyoto. She has also been learning the Japanese language, how to cook Japanese food, and is taking Taiko drumming lessons from a nearby sensei. She is a star helper!


The bounty is here!

We have 22 varieties of heritage tomatoes to offer our customers this season. Some restaurants have been enjoying the super sweet micro tomatoes, and the colorful large slicing tomatoes. This is our busiest time of year for harvesting. Today, we harvested over 11 Kg of cucumbers alone! So busy!



Share The Love Japan

We are delighted that we have been able to send several shipments of vegetables to Fukushima again this year in response to the need for safe and healthy food since the 2011 nuclear disaster. Our most recent delivery included over 20 000Yen of mixed veggies to an orphanage and a kindergarten school lunch program in Fukushima prefecture. We have been able to do this for two consecutive years now because of the generous support of Share The Love Japan. We look forward to our next shipment this weekend.

Launching Our Veggie Box Program

15 Jun

spring crops

We are delighted to announce that we are now taking orders for our Hello Farm Organics organic veggie box program.  Thank you to those who have been waiting patiently over the long winter months. We started the veggie box program this week, and are now taking reservations for our weekly Monday night deliveries. All boxes will feature our seasonal, mixed vegetables and will change weekly. You have a choice of a small (3000Yen) or large (4000Yen) mixed veggie box.  We can send you your veggies by cold delivery, anywhere in Japan for an additional 1000Yen.  Because the kinds of vegetables you receive will be determined by us, based on what is seasonably available, our program is well-suited for food lovers with a spirit of exploration and surprise.

If you are interested in ordering from us, please read through our blog for details about our philosophy, what to expect, and how to order. Please contact us by email at hellofarmorganics(at)gmail(dot)com if you have questions or would like to place an order. We will send you payment details at that time. Please also note that in our first year of the veggie box program, we will have limited space to keep things manageable, but will do our best to reserve a spot for you on a convenient delivery date.

Thank you, and happy eating!


Ava and Zenryu

25 May


Plant Sale!!!!

We were so excited about spring seeding, that we planted too many tomato seedlings! If you are a grower living in Japan, you may be interested in purchasing some of our organic, super healthy and ready-to plant tomato seedlings. We offer 22 varieties of heirloom, slicing, cherry, and canning tomatoes. We also have a rainbow of colors to pick from including red, orange, yellow, green, purple, black, white and striped! Each plant costs 200 Yen and we can ship by delivery truck. Please contact us by email for more details and to order at hellofarmorganics(at)gmail(dot)com


This spring has been very good to us. The weather has been excellent for transplanting on time, and the conditions have been great for successful germination. We are already harvesting head lettuce, baby salad mix, snap peas, radish, parsley, and celery for On The Slope, our main distributor. If you are interested in purchasing a mixed veggie box and you live in Japan, please order through www.on-the-slope.com. Their organic fruits and vegetables are sourced from Kansai area farmers, including our farm.You can email them in English and they will send you an English order form by email. You can also call them by phone. They are super friendly!


We have also been exploring the practice of companion planting this spring. With reference to the book, Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte, we have been trying to both improve our soil fertility as well as maximize on our space. In this picture, we have planted some spring head lettuce among our overwintered bulb onions. We had quite a bit of winter damage to our onion patch, so we inter-planted with lettuce. The main concept here is that companion plants offer a mutually beneficial relationship both above and sub-soil. Some companions deter pests, others form symbiotic nutritional relationships, while others promote healthy growth by providing a bit of shade or keeping moisture in the soil. Its all quite amazing!


Meet our newest garden family member, Kuwa-chan, our new wheel hoe. She is a one-of-a-kind in Japan with custom-welded parts from Orchard Hill Farm in Ontario, Zenryu-made handles, and a recycled bike wheel. All cleverly assembled for super-hero stirrup hoe magic to happen. We’ve been waiting for months!! So happy!!!!

Spring is Here!

4 Apr


The  glorious cherry blossoms all over Kansai and Japan are a sure sign of spring and we have been super busy getting ready for our second growing season at Hello Farm Organics. In the photo, Zenryu is using Kyoto rice straw to trellis organic snap peas, which we seeded in the fall and successfully overwintered under the snow. It is always exciting for us to learn local Kyoto techniques from our neighbors. This was the first time either of us had trellised peas in this way. This year, we have been able to get into our garden much earlier and as a result, we feel much more prepared for the coming growing season.

In short, here is what we have been up to in March/April:

– seeding pots of eggplant, heritage tomatoes, sweet peppers, parsley and basil under our warm grow lights for later transplanting

– seeding trays of kale, lettuce and broccoli seedlings in our cold frames (mini green houses for cooler areas) for later transplanting

– weeding and preparing garden beds for planting

– direct seeding radish and baby salad mix in the garden

– maintaining our overwinter crops such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, broad beans, snap peas, cabbage, garlic, bulb onions, and baby salad mix

– consulting closely with our main distributor and supporter, Saka-no-Tochu (On-The-Slope)

As promised, we still plan to start offering our own Hello Farm Organics veggie box delivery program in June.  Although we have continued to harvest all winter, our program will not start until June when we have a greater variety of produce to offer.  We will have 20 veggie boxes available for families each week on a first-come, first-serve basis. We will cater to English-speaking residents as it is a challenge for non-Japanese speakers and readers to find healthy, safe, organic vegetables in Japan.

If you currently live in Japan and are eager to start ordering organic vegetables now, please visit On-The-Slope.com. A large percentage of our produce is already distributed through On-The-Slope and can be found in some of their veggie boxes and in their store, even now. As you will see on their website, they are absolutely committed to supporting organic farmers and consumers, by only purchasing and distributing safe, organic, and naturally grown food. On-The-Slope now has some English pages on their website and you can now order using their English printable order form. Try calling if you cannot sort it out, as many of the staff speak English and are very friendly. (+81) 75-200-9773. Tell them Hello Farm Organics sent you 🙂

Please keep watching for news and updates. We sincerely appreciate your ongoing interest and support in our farm. We can’t wait to start sending donations Northbound to Fukushima again this year. We are so happy to be able to continue participating in food safety programs here in Japan, and the Hello Farm Project again this year.

Love and peace,

Ava and Zenryu

Happy New Year!

14 Jan

As we enter 2013, Hello Farm Organics would like to take a moment to reflect on our successes in our first growing season. We feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to start our own organic farm here in beautiful Kyoto. We have so much to be thankful for in our first year. Here is a timeline with some highlights:

December 2011- We were introduced to the Hello Farm Project initiated by a wonderful local NPO, 坂ノ途中, On-The-Slope. http://on-the-slope.com/hellofarm/

On-The-Slope supported our transition from Ibaraki Prefecture to Kyoto by finding us both land and buyers for our food, among other things such as finding second-hand equipment and introducing us to neighbors.

March 2012- We finally broke soil with the help of our new neighbors in Keihoku, Northern Kyoto, and started seedlings in multiple locations around Kansai, including Osaka YMCA International School’s Adopt-A-Plant project.

August 2012– With the help of other supporters, we were able to donate a percentage of our crops to communities effected by the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. This also included several orphanages in the Kanto and Tohoku areas. In all, we donated more than 130 000Yen worth of safe, organic vegetables over the growing season.

October 2012– With our weekly sales to local restaurants, markets, stores, and food box programs, we managed to come out in the “green” in our first year. Yeah for us!

November 2012– We found out that we will be able to continue supporting orphanages and Northern communities in the Tohoku area for the 2013 growing season. 2013 will surely offer a greater variety of organic vegetables than last year!

December 2012– We decided to start a food box delivery program in 2013, based on seasonal vegetables, with minimal packaging and minimal pre-washing. This is in order to maintain vegetable shelf life but also because it better reflects our ideals about what how healthy, organic produce should be handled in a market culture of over packaging. Our soil and vegetables will also be regularly checked for radiation levels with the help of On-The-Slope NPO. Please visit our Veggie Order tab for more details about the veggie box program. The program will start in June, 2013.

Thank you so much to all our supporters for a wonderful first year up in the Kyoto mountains. Please tell your friends about us! We are super excited about our second growing season and look forward to growing as a business in 2013. Have a safe, healthy and happy New Year, everybody!


Ava and Zenryu

Hello Farm introduction

18 Nov

Hello Farm Project is run by Zenryu Owatari and Ava Richardson in beautiful Kyoto, Japan. The farm started in March 2012 as a farm start initiative sponsored by Sakanotochu (On The Slope) organic food distributor and NPO. The farm provides over 100 varieties of organic vegetables to the Kyoto community. A percentage of the crops have also been donated to several communities effected by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear radiation disaster in Northern Japan. Hello Farm Project hopes to expand sales in 2013 to include an online veggie box program. Please watch for updates!