On some level, all disasters are agricultural disasters. When seawater washes over land, when the earth cracks and collapses buildings, when livelihoods and lives are lost, farmers die and lose their jobs. It is easy to forget this, of course, but it is always true – and there’s something immensely sad about people loving a place and having to leave it at any time. But there’s something particularly poignant about this:
Mr. Sato, 59, is a 17th-generation family farmer, a proprietor of 14 acres of greenhouses and fields where he grows rice, tomatoes, spinach and other vegetables. Or did grow: Last week, the national government banned the sale of farm products not just from Towa, but also from a stretch of north-central Japan extending south almost to Tokyo, for fear that they had been tainted with radiation.
Already, Mr. Sato stands to lose a fifth of his income because of the ban. If the government cannot contain the Daiichi disaster, he could lose a farm that his family has tended since the 1600s.
“Even if it’s not safe, I need my fields for my work,” he said. “I have no other place to go. I don’t even want to think about escaping from my land.”
One of the things Japan has done fairly well is provide support for agriculture – it would be easy to do what many small industrialized places have done – to drive agriculture out entirely. Japan has not done so, and has offered strong incentives to keep farming. The very fact that Mr. Sato is a *17th* generation farmer says something enormously important. Let us hope that an 18th generation is possible.