Talking about the passion of the Hokuryu-cho Sunflower Oil Reclamation Project: Yasuto Noshikawa, Deputy Manager, Masakazu Tamura, Section Chief & Rescue Hero Rescues Hokuryu-cho!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Unfortunately, the Sunflower Festival was cancelled this year due to the new coronavirus, and there will be no sunflowers in the Sunflower Village.

Sunflowers in Hokuryu Town in 2020

34th Himawari Festival canceled

The Hokuryu-cho Sunflower Festival started in 1987 and has been held without a break for 33 years. This year will be the first year that the sunflowers will take a break due to the prevention of the spread of the new coronavirus infection. In preparation for next year's sunflowers to bloom, we have decided to take the time to prepare the soil and carefully and meticulously care for the land.

Sunflowers blooming in each household

Then, sunflower seeds, which are distributed to the town's residents each year, are scattered in the gardens of every household in the town. To keep the sunflower lights burning, the town is brightly and cheerfully decorated with the loving sunflowers of the residents of Hokuryu Town.

Start of sunflower cultivation for oil

In addition, the cultivation of sunflowers for sunflower oil in Hokuryu Town has started vigorously. One month has passed since the sowing of sunflowers for sunflower oil took place on Saturday, May 9 this year.

This year, three growers in Hokuryu Town planted 6 ha of sunflower oil, and the sunflowers for sunflower oil sprouted about 10 days after sowing and are growing well, with two to four leaves and more and more leaves.

Sunflower Oil Reclamation Project

We are pleased to announce that the Sunflower Oil Reclamation Project, which began in 2016 (2016), is now in its fifth year.

We recently heard about the Sunflower Oil Project activities from Yasuto Noshikawa, Deputy Director (on dispatch from the Hokkaido Government) and Masakazu Tamura, Assistant Director of the Sunflower Project Promotion Office at the Hokuryu Town Office.

Yasuto Noshikawa, deputy manager (left) and Masakazu Tamura, assistant manager (right) of the Himawari Project Promotion Office, Hokuryu Town Hall

Story by Yasuto Noshigawa, Deputy General Manager

Yasuto Nodogawa, Deputy Director

This year's sunflower fields and plots are planted with 6 hectares

In 2016 (2016), when the project started, it began with sunflower cultivation on 6 ha. Each year, the field area is increased by 2 ha, last year by 12 ha, and this year by 6 ha. 3 growers in Hokuryu Town are now cultivating sunflowers.

As for the budget for activities, the grant for promoting regional development (Machi-Hito-Shigoto-Seisei grant) ended last year, and this year the town is implementing the grant as its own policy.

Cultivation and production

Although the field area has decreased, seed yields are gradually increasing, due in part to the improved technical skills of the growers.

We plan to harvest 6 tons (6 ha) of sunflower seeds in 2016, 15 tons (12 ha) in 2019, and 9 tons this year. The seed harvest is expected to be approximately 1.5 times higher than in the first year.

organic farming

Sunflower oilseed "Cobalt II" is grown by contract farmers in Hokuryu Town without pesticides and pressed at a facility in Nayoro City.

oil quantity

This year, we expect to harvest 9 tons, so assuming a post-harvest oil yield of about 30%, we will get about 2.7 tons.

Characteristics of sunflower oil

Rich in oleic acid: Helps reduce bad cholesterol in the blood. Prevents arteriosclerosis by thinning the blood.

Rich in vitamin E: Contains a large amount of "alpha tocopherol," a strong antioxidant that removes active oxygen in the body and is effective in preventing aging. It is said to be effective in promoting blood circulation, improving rough skin, sensitivity to cold, and stiff shoulders

Characteristics of sunflower oil

Convenient to use for any kind of cooking

Sunflower oil is characterized by its resistance to oxidation, so it can be used at room temperature as-is on bread or rice or in salad dressings. Furthermore, this oil is also suitable for cooking. It can be used in an infinite number of ways for any kind of cooking. We hope you will give this oil a try.

Dealers of sunflower oil related products

When I was assigned to Hokuryu Town in November 2018 (2018), the number of stores handling the product was still limited.

At that time, Brilliant Sunflower Oil was sold at the store in Sunflower Park Hokuryu Onsen in Hokuryu Town. Roasted sunflower oil was also sold at Sunagawa Highway Oasis.

Since then, we have been conducting sales channel promotion activities in the city of Sapporo, and also in neighboring cities, towns, and villages, aiming to have our products available at stores in various regions in Hokkaido.

Sunflower oil is a high-priced product for mass retailers, which makes it difficult to set up normal shelf space.

We are confident that we can spread the goodness of sunflower oil to as many people as possible, so we are striving to get as many stores as possible to carry sunflower oil.

Recently, due to the impact of the new coronavirus, income is down and consumers are tightening their purse strings, making it difficult for them to afford high unit price products.

The Co-op Sapporo Fukagawa store (Fukagawa City) currently carries only one type of oil, San San sunflower oil. In the future, we hope to increase the number of variations such as roasted sunflower oil and Kuro Sengoku sunflower oil dressing.

List of dealers of sunflower oil related products

Consumer Preference: Brilliant Sunflower Oil, Roasted Sunflower Oil

In urban areas, many people use olive oil on a daily basis, so they tend to seek characteristics in the taste of the oil itself. We feel that "roasted sunflower oil," which has a sunflower-like taste, is rather popular.

In local towns in Hokkaido, consumers' oil preferences are 50-50. They are familiar with the clear type of oil that has been around for a long time. Brilliant sunflower oil seems to be becoming popular because it is clear and non-habit forming, so it can be used for any kind of cooking.

We hope you will enjoy using both oils at your table, depending on the dish you are preparing.

Future Outlook

The efficiency of cultivation is gradually improving each year, and quality is becoming more stable. Our challenge for the future is how to make sunflower oil known to as many people as possible, both inside and outside of Hokkaido.

In our various activities, we are committed to promoting the town of Hokuryu as well as the existence of our products.

Future Outlook

Thoughts on Expanding Sales Channels

In our sales promotion activities to date, we have also engaged in dive sales-type activities. In the process, we were very pleased to find that the business offices took each project and other stories seriously and understood them.

For our participation in an event at Mitsui Outlet Park Sapporo Kitahiroshima (Kitahiroshima City), we visited the park without making an appointment and directly talked to the person in charge of the park. On the spot, we were even able to discuss opening a stall in the town's PR corner. On the same day, we were also able to talk with Hokuren Kururu no Mori (Kitahiroshima City) about opening a stall there as well.

It was a touching and joyful moment when the other party firmly accepted our strong desire to somehow promote Hokuryu Town's specialty products.

At the event, we sold our products (sunflower oil, Kuro Sengoku, and sunflower rice, which are the town's specialties) in person at each of our stores, and at the same time, we were able to promote the town of Hokuryu and the Sunflower Festival. We enjoyed a sense of togetherness as we sold our products together with the people involved in the Hokuryu Town's specialty products.

We have been in contact in some form or another since then with the business establishments that we have had the pleasure of meeting. We believe it will continue to be important to promote our products to customers in Sapporo and other cities, not only in the neighboring areas, but over a wider area as well.

We have received many requests to develop products that combine sunflower oil with the products of business establishments.

For example, "miso × roasted sunflower oil", "garlic × sunflower oil", "seaweed × sunflower oil", "bread × sunflower oil", and many more. We hope to expand the connection with sunflower rice and Kuro Sengoku soybeans around sunflower oil.

I feel that we will continue to weave a fine-tuned relationship with the people we have been involved with at business meetings and other events.

Various developments connected from sunflower oil

It is an interesting experience to see unexpected movements occur through connections with various people by attacking them from different angles.

This time, the product is being used by bakeries, soba noodle shops, and other restaurants, expanding its sales channels.

We would like to make contacts with various towns and vendors one by one, just like sunflowers sprouting from the sunflowers. I would like to value the networks that are formed from these contacts and continue to pursue them in the future," said Mr. Nodogawa carefully.

Masakazu Tamura, Chief of Staff

田村正和 係長
Masakazu Tamura, Section Chief

Sunflower cultivation for sunflower oil

This is the third year that I have been involved in the Sunflower Oil Project. At that time, Mr. Hamada and Mr. Togo were working on sunflower oil cultivation and product development from the start-up and had two years of groundwork under their belts.

As for me, I have been in charge mainly of sunflower oil production. I was also in charge of government grant payment procedures.

During the six years I worked in agriculture at the industrial division of the Hokuryu Town Hall, I developed a close relationship with farmers. For farmers, growing sunflowers for sunflower oil was more labor-intensive and difficult than other plants, and they could not expect to earn much income.

Under such circumstances, as a bridge between farmers and sunflower cultivation, we always visit the fields and try to maintain close relationships with farmers.

Acid value of sunflower oil

In cultivation, controlling the acid value of sunflower oil is a major challenge.

If the seeds are not harvested within 150 days of sowing sunflowers, the acid value increases. Even if the harvest was large, a product with a higher acid value than the standard value would not be marketable.

Although we may only be able to verify this once a year, so far we have found that harvests at 145 days of budding have lower and more stable acidity levels.

The oil content is stored after the sunflowers begin to wither after the flowers are in full bloom. If harvested too early, oil content is low. If harvested too late, the oil content will be high, but the risk of high acidity will arise. The timing of harvest must be determined while looking for the best conditions for oil.

It is best to harvest when the sunflower seeds are dry and firm after 3-4 days of sunny weather. in October, the weather is wet and cool, which increases the moisture content of the sunflower seeds and makes them take longer to dry. From about the 130th day after sowing, watch the weather and harvest around the 140th day.

Each field is sown in a different way, and the temperature, soil temperature, and field conditions vary from district to district. The number of days for germination also differs, which is difficult because it varies from field to field.

Each time, there has been no actual results or examples, so it is a process of trial and error. Every year is a battle! We tackle each project with a sense of excitement.

Response to mycosis fungoides

Sunflowers are subject to mycorrhizal disease.

Outbreak of Mycorrhizal Disease

Mycorrhizal disease is a type of fungus that develops when it invades sunflowers through the leaves, roots, saucers, and stems. The disease develops after the sunflowers have flowered, and symptoms vary, including rotting of the underside of the head flower. When the disease develops, the fungus can be dispersed up to 300 meters. The disease is said to develop under weather conditions of 27°C (77°F) and high humidity.

Mycorrhizal disease is present in most fields, but the disease is usually controlled by spraying pesticides.

In the case of sunflowers in Hokuryu Town, pesticide spraying is not allowed because they are edible and grown without pesticides. If they are affected by mycorrhizal disease, the seeds will lose weight, which will affect the yield.

The situation varies from one whole field to another, from one half of a field to a neighboring field where the disease does not develop. We are consulting with people at the Dairy Academy to analyze the situation and conduct research.

Proactive approach in sales activities

It is not uncommon for town hall employees to participate in business meetings to promote their products. The Agricultural Cooperative Association does promote the town by making sales pitches and selling products at events connected with those sales pitches, but they do not engage in sales activities.

However, under Mr. Nodogawa's guidance, we have gained very valuable experience in communicating and making connections with various businesses through sales channel expansion activities that the town hall staff had never experienced before.

Anyway, you can only find direction by taking action, so I realize how important it is to be proactive," says Tamura.

Thoughts on Sunflowers, the Symbol of Hokuryu Town

田村正和 係長
Masakazu Tamura, Section Chief

Sunflowers are the symbol of Hokuryu Town, and we feel it is important to continue to promote sunflower oil as a specialty of the town. We will continue to make efforts to let more people know about sunflower oil, which goes well with all kinds of dishes, and to convey its delicious taste. We would like to promote sunflower oil more and more with confidence and pride as a safe and secure local food that is healthy to eat.

So far, we have received words of appreciation from farmers in the town, who say, "The town is doing its best to make this a specialty product, and we will cooperate with them as much as we can, even if we do not make a profit. We will continue to work as hard as we can with these farmers," said Mr. Tamura.

With thanks to the sunflower oil, the energetic power of Hokuryu Town!
Yasuto Noshikawa, deputy manager (left) and Masakazu Tamura, assistant manager (right) of the Himawari Project Promotion Office, Hokuryu Town Hall

The town's symbol, the sunflower, plays a cheerful and energetic tune, spreading the town's precious spirit of burning life.

Sunflower oil made with deep love and sincerity.
With great love, gratitude and prayers for the wonderful collaboration of sunflower oil, which is connected from various perspectives.

Sunflower Village working hard to cultivate the soil

'Rescue Hero' to Rescue Hokuryu Town [Yahoo!

On Thursday, June 4, Takuma Arano, a midfielder, and Naoki Ishikawa, a defender from J1 Sapporo, who are engaged in rescue hero activities, met with the Hokuryu-cho Sunflower Project Promotion Office via the web conference system "Zoom" and decided to start working toward the Hokuryu-cho "Sunflower Oil" rescue!

In the future, Takuma Arano and Naoki Ishikawa are planning new operations and exchanges with the children of Hokuryu-cho, led by Takuma Arano and Naoki Ishikawa!

Yahoo! News] "Rescue Heroes" of MF Takuma Arano, DF Naoki Ishikawa, and Other Activities Go to Hokuryu Town for Relief
Rescue Hero Special Site

Sunflower oil" will be sold at the special Rescue Hero website.

RESCUE HERO SHOP【北海道】北竜町ひまわり油 3本セット
RESCUE HERO SHOP [Hokkaido] Hokuryu-cho Sunflower Oil 3-bottle set

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Year 2020

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interpoint (interword separation)Agricultural Cooperative Honoka [No.15] Harvesting sunflower seeds for sunflower oil(Sep 29, 2016)


interpoint (interword separation)Togo-san's oil story(May 2016 - December 2016)

◇ Photography and Editing: Noboru Terauchi Reporting and Writing: Ikuko Terauchi