Owners of six small and midsize businesses from Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures opened Roku Farm Atalata on Sunday, a multipurpose facility in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, featuring such services as a restaurant serving ingredients harvested from directly managed farms and an oven that can be used even in times of disaster.
The facility employs local residents who experienced the disaster, among others, and hopes to contribute to their future independence.
The founders of Roku Farm Atalata gathered to help soon after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 at the call of Masayuki Shimada, 30, an agricultural consultant in Natori. The six had only been slightly acquainted, but they became closer through such activities as serving meals to people affected by the disaster.
Ultimately they agreed to start a joint operation aimed at reconstruction, and settled on the construction and operation of a facility that would contribute to the creation of an agriculture industry handling everything from production through sales, as well as help create jobs.
The group received about ¥600 million in bank financing and purchased about 4,000 square meters of land in Natori. Four wooden buildings with glass walls were constructed, covering a total floor space of about 830 square meters.
“Roku” refers to the six founding members, among other things, while “Atalata” is a word they created based on a French word meaning “to create a bond.” There is a restaurant that serves vegetables from such places as farms directly managed by Natori and Tagajo, also in the prefecture, as well as a soba restaurant that uses buckwheat from Yamagata Prefecture and demonstrates the process of making soba by hand.
Based on the experience of having foodstuffs after the 2011 disaster but not being able to cook them, the project also set up an oven that does not require gas or electricity to work. During normal times, it will be used to make bread.
Also, many community centers and other facilities were washed away by tsunami, leaving residents fewer places in which to gather. Therefore, the members decided to rent out one of Roku Farm Atalata’s buildings as a community facility.
The project has hired 60 people, including local residents who experienced the disaster and disabled persons. They eventually hope to raise the number to 100.
“We’re glad if we can help victims of the disaster be independent. We want to convey the importance of agriculture through food,” said Tetsuya Watanabe, 45, who serves as representative director of the general incorporated association that manages the facility.
Business hours and other details can be found at the Roku Farm Atalata website at http://www. atalata.com.