We began our first stages of peach farming in 30-degree heat, not the sapping Cairns heat, but with cool valley breezes flowing through to ensure we could enjoy ourselves.
The first stage of the production process we were involved in was putting single individual bags on each fruit. On farms within NZ and Australia, it is something that is not only rare but actually I'm not sure it is even done. With limited space and specific consumer demands, quality of fruit certainly rains supreme over quantity.
The bags add as a protection barrier from insects, animals, wind, rain and diseases. They also protect against sunlight to ensure the colouring does not burst out too early. From just having a think about these few things, it really seems like common sense to bag all fruit. My brother-in-law runs a fruit farm in the Adelaide Hills; (he doesn't use a computer so he wont be reading this) I will be sending his kids some fruit bags for their Christmas stockings.
Before the bagging stage, there's a heap of fruit thinning that takes place, there is only one fruit per branch to again ensure the fruit gains every possible bit of nutrition that can be available to ensure the size, smell, sweetness and texture is the highest quality.
A Japanese farmer has certain controls for almost all situations; there are a few aspects that will never be fully taken care of, the wild animals of the Yamanashi Mountains.
Currently the main pest on the farm is not the white man who has just arrived (which I think many of the neighbours think so), but the Japanese wild pig. The day we arrived a 90 kg beast was tormenting the farmers, eating all the fruit, digging up the roots and smashing down fences. Back in New Zealand, we would have just called the local bar and told the owner to warn their clients that we would be calling the police if this continued.....
Anyway, We went about trying to get the pig to calmly leave our farm and go somewhere else, this is done with dried chilli in small bags placed around the trees. The pigs can't stand chilli, so in theory they will move on. The next morning, there was no further damage to our trees and we had been told a pig had been shot in a grape farm just up the road.
Other pests that have snuck in the farm to enjoy our peaches are Monkeys, Japanese Deer and Bears. It is extremely rare to see a wild bear outside of Hokkaido in japan. They are present, but I really think in Honshu, they will be only in zoos by the end of my lifetime. A huge shame as there I think there is nothing more awesome seeing a wild bear in the mountains.
The peach bagging is almost complete, the fruit are getting larger, the snakes are slithering around (10cm at best) and we are really enjoying the lifestyle change. The main worry at the moment is where I can find somewhere decent to swim. Let me know if anyone out there in Yamanashi has a good spot.