No.197 (10/14/11)

Miracle Apples

By Chiho Tsukiashi

Akinori Kimura is a man who has made the impossible possible: He grows 100% organic apples. It may not sound so difficult for you, but usually, apples need chemicals sprayed more than ten times till harvest. All he uses is vinegar to ward off pests. Absolutely no fertilizer is used. It took him seven years of hardship without major income. In the end of 2006, this extraordinary man from Aomori Prefecture was featured on a popular NHK TV show called “Professional,” and that made him the most famous apple farmer in Japan. His apples are now extremely hard to obtain. His apples not only taste absolutely great, but they do not decay because not too much nitrogen left on the fruits. He does not charge too much on them, however. His purpose of growing organic apples is not to earn money, but to promote organic cultivation of food products.

Mr. Kimura's strong motivation of growing organic apples is his wife, who is allergic to chemicals. It was twenty years ago. He read books about organic farming and decided to start unprecedented endeavor. Without spraying chemicals on apple trees, the number of pests increased in geometrical progression. He hand-removed them one by one -- the labor seemed to last endlessly. At night when he went to the orchard, he heard sounds of bugs moving around eating leaves. For the first seven years, the trees didn't have any flowers or fruits. Mr. Kimura worked on his orchard during daytime, and bars at night to live from hand to mouth. He could not afford even a notebook for his children. Looking at him apologizing to each tree on the miserable orchard, people thought he went mad.

One night Mr. Kimura went to Mt. Iwaki, holding a rope to end his life. But the rope was too short for the purpose. He gazed away at beautiful night view of Hirosaki City. Suddenly, under the moonlight, he confused an oak with an apple tree. Rushed to it, found it was an oak full of acorns, he noticed that wild trees grow healthy without pesticide or fertilizer. He scooped the soil, smelled the richness of nutrition, and felt the strengths of the roots of the plants. How different from his orchard soil! This experience inspired him to recreate ecosystem on his orchard, just like that in the mountain.

Excited with his idea, Mr. Kimura hurried back home, completely forgetting why he went to the mountain. He used to eradicate any weeds to prevent pests from outbreak and to avoid the weeds from eating up nutrition for apple trees. But now he sowed soy beans under apple trees. He knew their root nodule bacteria were helpful to produce nitrogen, indispensable nutrition for growing plants. That year, 1/3 of leaves stayed on the trees. Next year, 1/2 stayed. In the eighth year of his experiment, seven flowers blossomed on one tree and two tiniest apples fruited. In the ninth year, apple blossoms were all over the orchard! When he heard the news from the owner of the orchard next to his, he peaked at the sight from a side of barn, being afraid if it was true. He said “Thank you” to every tree, tearfully. He continues to talk to trees even now.

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