Monday, October 6, 2008
Forming a Bond With Your Farmer
In one of my posts on the Japanese Snack Reviews blog, I noted that the Japanese tend to put the faces of ordinary people on products in a way which I don't recall happening back home. In the U.S., we put fake figureheads (Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima), famous people (Paul Newman), or company figureheads (Mrs. Fields) on packaging, but we don't tend to see average Joe Smith.
I generally don't buy fruit or vegetables at the local market because they're more expensive, but tomatoes have been expensive at the green grocer and they were more reasonable at the supermarket. The package of 6 small tomatoes above cost just a little under $3, and yes, that was pretty cheap. There were a wide range of choices in choosing similarly-priced trays. Some had three large tomatoes, others had four medium ones, etc. All of them had little pinkish slips of paper with the pictures and names of the farmers who were offering us their bounty.
As near as I can tell, this sort of information is included with peppers or tomatoes sold by members of the Marukyo agricultural group. On its web site, this group has all the normal fluff you see surrounding Japanese food companies about producing healthy, attractive food which is cultivated in peace and harmony with the earth, but it also claims to try and do all of this at a reasonable cost. Given the cost of red and yellow peppers in Tokyo, I'm not inclined to believe the cost part, but I'm sure they do their best. Chances are they are more about fixing prices than about keeping them low, but I may not know of what I speak.
The farmer and his wife on my slip are supposed to be conveying a message to the customer. I have had different farmers pictured on other tomatoes I've bought in the past, but I never paid attention to the messages. Therefore, I don't know if the phrases are all the same. Given the vague, bland and oh-so-Japanese message on this (' we do our best to earn the customers' trust...we work hard...we take great care...blah, blah, blah'), I'm guessing that it doesn't matter if the phrasing is different on these messages. I'm guessing the content is essentially the same.