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Outpost welcomes farmer delegation from Japan

[Back row L/R: Shota Chiku, Daisuke Yahisa, Hirotsugu Oshige, Matt Filipiak. Front row L/R: Bonnie Halvorsen, Ms. Katherine Numrych (translator). Front row: Mr. Shigeo Moriyama]

Many of you may not know that Wisconsin has an international sister state in the Chiba prefecture of Japan. The Chiba-Wisconsin Association, started in 1990, was established after Japanese soy sauce giant Kikkoman relocated their headquarters to Wisconsin. The exchange was established to reinforce cultural understandings between the two states.

Each year, the Chiba-Wisconsin Association organizes and hosts an annual delegation. For past three years, the Science Technology group of the delegation has focused on urban agriculture. On September 29, student farmers and alumni from the Chiba College of Agriculture came to Milwaukee to tour various urban agriculture sites and learn more about ag commerce in the region. On their Milwaukee itinerary was a stop at Outpost Natural Foods!

Bonnie Halvorsen, outreach director and research project director for Milwaukee’s Institute for Urban Agriculture and Nutrition, led the Chiba delegation on the Milwaukee tour and the visit to our store on Capitol Drive. According to Bonnie, “In the US, urban agriculture is a fairly new practice, and we are still figuring it all out. But in Japan, with their significant limitations in arable land, they are decades ahead of us in this technology, supply chain models, and even education about food systems.” While Milwaukee is recognized as a leader in urban agriculture, “we have much to learn from them.” Of particular note, they are curious as to why Americans are even interested in urban ag and small space intensive farming when we have so much land available.

Capitol Drive customer service ambassador, Matt Filipiak, welcomed the delegation and answered many questions. They were interested to learn more about Outpost and how we came to be, how the cooperative structure works for a grocery store and the role of our owners, and how farmers play a part in the success of the business. They were also very interested in learning more about our sustainability practices and initiatives.

All the delegates spoke some English, while their escort Mr. Shiego Moriyama, a retired government executive, provided additional translation. The students were pleased with how Outpost displayed and handled fresh produce. "The diversity of your produce is beautiful. The mirrors behind it enhance their beauty." "We like the water sprayed on the vegetables to give them a farm-fresh look." "Your beef is inexpensive compared with ours in Japan." They, themselves, are already seasoned farmers and know a thing or two about quality produce. One grows leeks, one grows Asian pears and one works on his family's 50-year-old dairy farm. 

After the tour, the delegation graciously presented Matt with a gift of gratitude for his cooperative hospitality!

Chiba is located east of Tokyo, along Tokyo Bay. Like Milwaukee, it is an important industrial center as well as one of Japan’s busiest trading ports. The region also has a rich agricultural heritage, producing much of the nations vegetables, legumes and . . . sea vegetables!

For Bonnie, also an Outpost owner, having the delegation in Milwaukee was very special. "It is a true honor to return the hosting privilege of the delegation. The Institute of Urban Agriculture and Nutrition was involved in hosting the delegates from Chiba University in this year and in 2013. They were outstanding hosts when colleague Damian Coleman and I visited Chiba in 2014."

Outpost is pleased to consider the Institute for Urban Ag and Nutrition a partner in Milwaukee’s forward progress toward a more prosperous and sustainable agricultural future. It was an honor and a privilege to welcome the Japanese delegation from Chiba to our Capitol Drive store. The experience we will surely be remembered for years to come!

The apple bunker display was enjoyed!


Beef prices are considerably lower here than in Japan!


On behalf of the delegation, Mr. Moriyama presented Matt a lovely gift of friendship and appreciation for the fine tour of our beautiful co-op!


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