Last week, when Daiki invited me to join him to access some farms he was about to acquire, my first reaction on arriving at the farm was "Wow! this is so steep from the ground, how can we climb up and work?" There was also a lot of work to be done on the farm but he and the farm team didn't seem bothered at all.
The issue of abandoned farm is quite common in Wazuka since most farmers are growing older and can no more managing big size farms. They mostly transfer part of their ownership to others to manage.
Today, I joined Chisei and Hiroki, our next generation farmers to work on the farm and the turnaround at the end of the day has been dramatic. I share with you major lessons I learnt today about how to transform an abandoned tea farm into what I will call "a ready for the next harvest" state.
1. Gear up
For a farm that is 2 meters above the ground, wearing appropriate clothes will make your work easier. I wore Jika Tabi aka ninja shoes. Its so comfortable and easy for climbing mountains, it doesn't even feel like I am wearing shoes.
Its also safe to cover both arms and legs since the tea beds are so closely joined together and in this case very bushy.
Lastly, don't forget to wear a hat to protect yourself from the heat of the sun
2. Clear the boundaries
This is best done with a hand operated weed cutter than with hands or a mover. Cutting weeds around the boundaries helps to define the farm properly and also makes it safe to move around the farm.
Especially for such a bushy farm on a hill, it very easy to slip, so this was our first step before we began the field work.
3. Uproot weeds in the tea beds
Mostly in tea farming, weeds are cleared by uprooting. Its very difficult to deal with weeds since they mostly grow in between rolls and also among tea plants. They need to be carefully selected and pulled out so the tea plants are not affected in the process.
We placed the dead weeds in between the beds for composting.
4. Cut the stems
The most common practice in tea farming is stem cutting which is to aid the tea leaves in refreshing their strength and developing softer new leaves. If this is not done, the tea plant grows harder stems and the leaves grow tougher. This is important since the best tea is made out of tender leaves.
On today's farm we did not cut much since we found the stems to be quite weak.
This was the look of the farm at the end of the day. Looks like we can get a bumper harvest in the spring.