By Koji Sawamoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKAWACHINAGANO, Osaka — A food event aiming to attract visitors with dishes and sweets using locally produced fruit kicks off today at 36 restaurants and shops around Kawachinagano in the southern part of Osaka Prefecture. The city produces fruit such as peaches, pears and grapes, but it faces the challenge of making this fact known. According to the city, young fruit producers have been increasing in number in recent years, and the event’s organizers are encouraging people to visit participating restaurants to enjoy locally produced fruit.
The event is called the Okukawachi Fruits Rally and will run until the end of September. The Kawachinagano city government held the event for the first time last year with the aim of promoting local fruit. Twenty-six stores, including confectionery shops and restaurants, offered cakes, baked sweets, cocktails and other items, with about 500 people taking part.
This year, the event’s second installment is organized by the Kawachinagano stores association and the city’s chamber of commerce and industry. The organizers will encourage visitors at participating shops and restaurants to enjoy special menus featuring locally produced ingredients, and have created a promotional brochure containing lots of information about fruit grown in the city.
In order to attract more people, the organizers are promoting the event by bringing young farmers into the spotlight. The brochure introduces two couples, including Yoshihiro Nakatani and his wife Miyo, both 33, who cultivate peaches and pears.
Nakatani started working on his family’s farm at age 20 and now runs it. In March, he played a central role in resuming the activities of the city’s 4H club, a networking organization for young farmers. Since there are many small-sized part-time farmers in the city, there has been concern for many years about a shortage of successors to agricultural operations, especially after the club ceased its activities in the late 1980s.
However, young people have been taking over their parents’ farms one after another in recent years, while an increasing number of young people have changed jobs to start farming. Under such circumstances, Nakatani came to think, “Young farmers like us should give agriculture in Kawachinagano a leg up.”
The brochure highlights the two couples’ enthusiasm for the city’s agriculture. An official of the stores association running the event interviewed them in June, with the goal of promoting the city’s agriculture by showing the faces of producers.
Meanwhile, producers like Nakatani have high expectations for the fruits event. According to the city government, due to the small production quantities, the amount of locally produced fruit distributed to supermarkets and similar places is also small, even though it is of good quality. Therefore, the city’s fruit is not ever well known among local residents. The event is expected to be the best opportunity for promotion, according to city officials.
In addition, the event also has the effect of deepening the relationships between producers and restaurants. In April, an exchange event was held in the lead-up to the summer event. Nakatani joined and said that he came to appreciate how important ripe fruit is for cooking. Katsuyuki Nakanishi, 57, the owner of Kawachinagano-based French restaurant Gourmet House Psyche, which took part in last year’s event, said: “I feel we are building a relationship where we can exchange honest opinions. I would like to continue to use locally produced fresh fruit and other agricultural products.”
At this year’s event, when customers place an order in a participating restaurant or store, they will be told about the producer of the fruit as well as farmers’ markets where their fruit can be found.
Asako Amakawa, an official of the stores association, said, “We hope that the event will serve as a bridge to connect farmers, restaurants and residents.”
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