On August 10, 2012 as a result of Yayoi expressing an interest, Katsuo Kimura went to a lot of effort to contact and get permission for him to bring us to see Menno Village in Hokkaido.
The place is being run by Raymond Epp with his wife Akiko. They have four sons. Raymond does most of the machinery related work and at least six people are involved in other aspects of the operation. The property is a conglomeration of various parcels of land in the vicinity that have been purchased or rented. Land becomes available when elderly farmers have no one to pass the land on to and they are incapable of carrying on. The land is situated next to hills so that some of the fields had to be 'bulldozed' from corner to corner to level the ground and prepare it for the growth of rice. This means that one corner is more fertile than the other. Chemicals are avoided for weed and pest control. There is no shortage of work so we were careful not to overstay our welcome as three sets of boots and gloves might have appeared for our use.
Ray and Akiko have a number of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada connections. Although brought up in the USA, Ray met Akiko in Winnipeg and was one of the people instrumental in the creation of Tall Grass Prairie Bread bakery in Winnipeg. The bakery mills its own grain to produce the flour used in its baked goods. A similar process s used at Menno Village and we can attest to the fact that the bread is "oishi" or delicious as Katsuo bought some and had us try it.
Free trade closed the flour mills in Manitoba and the bakery in Winnipeg was eventually the only mill. This came to the attention of the Canadian Wheat Board and Ray was 'hauled up on the carpet' to defend their milling without the requisite paperwork in place. The unimaginably small scale of the mill involved allowed the bakery to continue operations, along with a sample of the product supplied to the CWB. Bureaucrats!
As one of the photographs demonstrates many homes in Hokkaido have chimneys unlike the rest of Japan. In this case Akiko's father an engineer designed a wood fired under floor heating system. When someone forgets to bring home the wood, alternative fuels can be used.
Click on Menno Village to see photographs on Picasa.