Hinata Farms is Chicago's first Japanese heritage farm

CHICAGO -- Rachel Kimura considers it "innately human" to farm.

"It just feels right to be connected to the land and be connected to nature," Kimura said.

Kimura is the founder of Hinata Farms, a Japanese heritage farm located in Chicago's South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville. Hinata is the first farm of its kind in Chicago, and it has introduced East Asian vegetables into Chicago's urban growing community.

Along with offering unique produce locally, Kimura built the farm based on the "natural farming" teachings of Masanobu Fukuoka, who practiced a more observational style of farming with less human intervention.

"It's an approach where you use what nature already does on its own because nature's already perfected a lot of these (growing) processes," Kimura said.

Hinata is one of six incubator farms in the Chicago Botanic Garden's Windy City Harvest program.

"Our mission is food, health and jobs," said Windy City Harvest coordinator Kelly Larsen. "We do that through seven agricultural programs that we look at as a continuum of opportunity."

Kimura went through an apprenticeship with Windy City Harvest before she successfully pitched the business proposal for Hinata Farms. She first gained access to the land in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted small business operations nation-wide.

But Kimura's distinct vision has already had a city-wide impact.

"This space provides a way for the Asian American community to find a community through farming. That's something that I'm finding is increasingly important," Kimura said.