The Japanese African-American Society (JAAS) in Georgia is a low-profile association with some 30 members, but it could have a high-profile impact on Japan’s agricultural imports.

The Society was founded some 10 years ago by Seiho Tajiri, a native of Japan who has lived in Atlanta for 24 years.  Now 84 years old, he doesn’t let his years get in the way of continuing to promote relations between Georgia’s African-Americans and Japan.

In 1993, he brokered a deal with Takano Foods, one of Japan’s largest producers of soybean products, to buy 200 tons of Georgia-grown soybeans on condition that Japanese organic farming methods would be used.

Although the project remains in an experimental stage, the strong demand for soybeans in Japan has created an important export for Georgia’s farmers.

Takano Foods wants the organic soybeans so it can produce “natto,”  a widely-consumed fermented soybean dish.  A crop was planted on a 50-acre plot in Burke County belonging to Lucious Abrams, a political activist on behalf of southeast Georgia’s farmers.

“It was all new to me, but you don’t know unless you try,” said Mr. Abrams, adding that he agrees with Mr. Tajiri’s conviction that the state’s farmers should limit their dependence on pesticides.

The first crop was destroyed last year by drought, but Mr. Abrams planted a new crop in May with the assistance of the University of Georgia’s Agricultural Extension Office.

With Takano back for a second order, Mr. Abrams said that several other farms have joined the project including some white farmers . “Color of skin has nothing to do with it,” he added.  “It’s a cross section of farmers looking to make money.”

But for Mr. Tajiri the soybean project is just one of several JAAS programs.  Another project he supports is the installation of a proprietary drip irrigation system on Mr. Abrams’ farm.  He also would like to see  Japanese farming methods adopted in the state which are explained in a booklet he provides to interested farmers.