Tacit farmers outside the U.S. Air Base in Kadena, Japan, take a brief moment to rest from the summer heat and humidity. At Kadena and other military bases on Okinawa, U.S. military officials and local town mayors permit farmers to grow crops, such as sugar cane, on land leased from local landowners by the government of Japan for use by the U.S. military. These farmers are known as "tacit farmers."

Photograph by Reynaldo Ramon, MyShot
  • The islands of Okinawa, in Japan's far south, have a long tradition of agriculture. That tradition was interrupted by the Battle of Okinawa, one of the largest naval assaults of World War II.

    Today, hundreds of Okinawans are returning to agriculture through a program of "tacit farming."

    Tacit farming involves an agreement between the Japanese government and the U.S. military. The Japanese government leases land from local landowners for use as U.S. military bases. Many bases, in turn, allow Okinawans to farm in designated areas. At Kadena Air Base, above, farmers cultivate land on the base's munitions storage area.

    Tacit farmers grow food for local consumption and profit. Kadena, for example, is one of the largest producers of sugar cane in Okinawa. In addition to sugar cane, tacit farmers grow tropical fruits, such as mangoes, papaya, and pineapple.

    • The earliest evidence of agriculture in Okinawa dates from the 700s.
    • After Japan's defeat in World War II, Okinawa remained under American control. The islands were returned to Japan in 1972.
    • The United States maintains more than 25 military bases or other operations in Okinawa. The bases take up most of the local arable land.
    • Most tacit farmers are over 50 years old.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture
    cultivate Verb

    to prepare and nurture the land for crops.

    designate Verb

    to name or single out.

    food Noun

    material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

    Encyclopedic Entry: food
    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    island Noun

    body of land surrounded by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: island
    lease Verb

    to rent, or buy for use during a specific time period.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    profit Noun

    money earned after production costs and taxes are subtracted.

    sugar cane Noun

    tall grass that is harvested to extract sugar from its sap or juice.

    tradition Noun

    beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.

    tropical fruit Noun

    any fruit-bearing trees that do not tolerate frost.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)