Interview | 竹山修身堺市長対談 【後編】

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『米どころ』堺

樋口「私たち『&Rice』の発想は、もともと白ごはんに合うおかず『メシトモ』を探す所からスタートしました。今、『&Rice』という名でリスタートし、『メシトモ』だけでなく、食に関すること全てを扱おうと取材を重ねています。すると堺市は大阪府下で有数の農業が盛んな地域であることがわかってきました」
竹山「都市近郊農業ですので傷みやすい軟弱野菜の栽培にとても向いているのが堺です。そしてなんといっても最近は上神谷米(にわだにまい)が評判です」
樋口「もちろん上神谷米の取材には行ってきました」
竹山「上神谷米は、川の上流の綺麗な水で育った素晴らしいお米です。もっともっとおいしさを知ってもらわねば」
樋口「ですが、残念ながら生産量はそれほど多くないようです」
竹山「休耕地を有効活用するべきだと考えています。余っている農地がある一方で、農業をやりたいという人が沢山います」
樋口「南区の『みないき農業塾』にはリタイヤされた方だけでなく、30代~の若い方も学ばれています。一方で伝統的な価値観を大切にする農村地帯に新しい人が馴染むのは簡単ではないようです」
竹山「はい。そこで農業委員会が農地の貸し借りのマッチングを丁寧にやっていくことが大切だと考えています。また南区だけでなく、美原区の美原米。これもうまい! それもPRしたい」
樋口「美原米ですか。それは初耳でした!」
竹山「美原では、集約農業で力をこめて、心をこめて米作りをされている方もいます。たまたま私の娘の嫁ぎ先が美原の方で、結婚式の時に美原米のおにぎりの屋台を出したところ満員で売り切れた。それぐらい美味しいお米なんです」
樋口「上神谷米に美原米もPRしていきましょう!」

— Sakai, a hidden rice granary

Keisuke Higuchi (KH): Our original idea for the ‘& Rice’ was to focus on food that goes well with rice (“meshi tomo”). However, after meeting people in the field, we have expanded our views and we are now interested in food in general. In fact, we learned that the city of Sakai is one of the few places within the Osaka Prefecture where agriculture is actually a thriving industry.
Mayor Takeyama (MT): The fact that Sakai is located nearby a major urban area puts us in a privileged position as a producer of fresh agricultural products. And there is the local variety of rice “Niwadani”, which is very good.
KH: Yes, we have covered the “Niwadani” rice in the past.
MT: The “Niwadani” rice is grown using clean water from a river. Its quality and taste must be merchandised more widely.
KH: I agree. But unfortunately, it seems that the “Niwadani” rice is not yet produced in very large quantities.
MT: I believe we need to effectively make use of unused rice fields. On the one hand, there is agricultural land which is not under use right now. And on the other hand, there are people willing to get involved with farming and related activities.
KH: There is the Minaiki Agriculture Study Group in the Minami Ward, for example, where not only retired people but also people in their 30’s come to learn about the local agriculture. However, because agriculture is a traditional activity, it is hard for outsiders to cope with the peculiar ways of doing things once they start the trade.

MT: Yes, I understand. There is a real need to coordinate the matching between the opportunities and people looking for opportunities in agriculture. By the way, it is not only in the Minami Ward, there is the variety of rice “Mihara” from the Mihara Ward, which is also very delicious!
KH: I had not heard about the “Mihara” rice until now!
MT: Mihara is a place of intensive agriculture and of course, rice is taken very seriously there.  My son-in-law is actually from Mihara, and in my daughter’s wedding the servings of rice balls (“onigiri”) of Mihara rice went out very quickly.
KH: “Niwadani” rice and “Mihara” rice must be promoted to larger markets.

Next : 良いものは良いと扱おう – これからの堺市は出る杭は伸ばす

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