I can’t believe 3 weeks have already passed since I landed at Poznan Airport in Poland, on route to Yoshikigoi Farm for the first time.

I was met at the airport by Ernest Driessen.  Ernest is the founder and original owner of what has now developed into Yoshikigoi Farm and this was the first time I’d met him properly, and it was interesting to learn more from him about how the farm had started and the stages that had been passed to get to where it is today whilst waiting for Jos Aben who was flying in from Holland around 45 minutes after my arrival.

Ernest, like Jos, is a Dutch national.  He acquired the property that is now being developed into Yoshikigoi around 18 years with the intention of fully renovating the large property which stands within the extensive grounds.

That renovation never happened, however 9 years or so ago Ernest was approached by his daughter and son-in-law who proposed to him using some of the land to start a Koi farm.  For all of them this was a completely new direction, none of them having any experience of keeping Koi, let alone breeding them commercially.

Perhaps unsurprisingly things didn’t prove quite as simple as hoped, with things heading in a negative direction advice was sought and contact made with Jos, who it transpired lived not far from Ernest’s home in Holland.  At the time Jos was running his own Koi shop and farm in Holland, A & C Koi.

After a few years of consultancy provided by Jos, 5 years ago Ernest made him the proposal of joining forces and Yoshikigoi was born.

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If you are wondering where the name ‘Yoshikigoi’ comes from, apparently during an early discussion somebody stated, ‘Jos, you breed some chic Koi’.  ‘Jos Chic Koi’ Japanised to become Yoshikigoi.

The journey from Poznan Airport to the farm, situated in the small village of Kawęczyn, 12 Km south of the town of Turek, takes around 2 hours by road, and it was 2 hours unsurprisingly filled with chat about the farm and Nishikigoi.

At the time of my visit approximately 75% of the farm’s ake-nisai, those Koi that had been born the previous summer, had already been released to the mud ponds to grow, the remaining 25% would stay inside over the summer season.  The ake-nisai equated to around 3000 Koi.

2016 spawning was also already underway, with more spawning carried out whilst I was there, and more to follow.  Already in 2016 the farm has produced 8.4 million fry of an anticipated 10 million, 2015 production was 9.2 million.

These numbers are pretty huge, and I was intrigued where all this was being done, because the overriding image that I’d seen of the farm simply surely didn’t have space for all that to take place.  As soon as we arrived at the facility the answer became clear, there was a whole lot of farm that I’d never seen photographed, the place was huge in comparison to what I had envisaged.

Perhaps the best way for you to see how large the facility is, other than visiting yourself, is to view the aerial video below.

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The total size of the farm is about 60 hectare.  There are 55 ponds for the tosai fry and 20 bigger ponds for the older Koi. The biggest one is one of 3.5 hectare. There is a large amount of grassland in the video you can see, particularly to the side of the fry ponds, that is earmarked for future development which will double the number of ponds.

It was getting into evening when we pulled into the farm, and with that in mind it wasn’t the best light to truly judge the Koi in the ponds, colours always look deeper and stronger in late evening.

The video below shows some of the Koi that I saw both in the evening, and then the following morning as we did the feeding rounds.  It is intended really to give just a feel to the farm, and an indication of what I saw on my first 1 day visit.

A few days after my visit was the BKKS National Koi Show and the question everyone wanted to know the answer too was, ‘so what are the Koi like, are they as good as people say?’.

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The honest truth is, it’s far too early, and I’ve seen far too little, to really make a judgement call.

Some may think that is a real cop out answer, however let me explain in more detail.

I have seen approximately 25% of the farm’s 2015 production in the concrete ponds, as you can see them in the video above.  I’m told that is a random selection, i.e. it isn’t deliberately better, or lesser, quality than the 75% which has been released to the mud ponds.  Whilst looking in those ponds I could see plenty of Koi that caught my eye, both Gosanke and non Gosanke, Koi that I would be interested in seeing, and evaluating, in closer detail.  Experience tells me that when you do pull up a pond of tosai like that sometimes they are not as good as first thought, other times they are better than first thought.

Around the mud ponds I’ve seen ake-nisai, ake-sansai and older, and there are plenty of those that I caught glimpses of, and that’s all you ever can do in a mud pond, that interest me enormously, fish that kept catching my eye in the muddy water.  If you’ve watched the video above you can see very clearly how little you can actually see.  I’ve written so many times that once a breeder releases their Koi to the mud ponds it’s the last proper view they get of them until they are harvested in autumn, Yoshikigoi is no different, and I don’t have the benefit of seeing the Koi before they were released.

There were a couple of indoor ponds that don’t appear on the video which contained some superb examples of ake-sansai Shiro Utsuri, Ginrin Shiro Utsuri and Doitsu Ochiba.  I’m told their equals swim in the mud ponds at present, if that is the case then they will most certainly be worth seeing at harvest time.

Speaking to people prior to my visit I had heard the comment, ‘they are as good as the Japanese breed’.  My reaction to that comment having visited, is the same as before hand.  You cannot pigeon hole ‘Japanese Koi’ as a certain quality, the range from best to worst is massive, and the people who were telling me, in general, had not seen the best that Japan has to offer, they were comparing it with the best they had seen imported.

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I was asked recently, ‘can Yoshikigoi compete at Koi shows?’.  Again that is a very broad question without defining what you would consider ‘competing’ and what the Koi show was.  As you enter the house at Yoshikigoi there is a table laden with trophies.

Yoshikigoi trophy table

Yoshikigoi trophy table

91 of these trophies were awarded at the German Young Koi Show in 2014, a show judged by Futoshi Mano (Dainichi), Senichi Mano (Izumiya) and Manabu Ogata (Ogata).  Clear evidence they can compete at a Koi show, however I don’t have any more details of the Koi entered in terms of number and quality etc.  I am told by Ernest that Ogata was particularly impressed with the Hariwake they entered.

Yoshikigoi have recently been granted clearance to export their Koi to the USA and to the UK, the latter having a particularly significant impact on the movement of their Koi around Europe.  The UK has a higher fish health status than mainland Europe.  It has always been possible to take fish from the UK, across the channel, and to a show in Holland for example; however you couldn’t bring them home to the UK afterwards.  Yoshikigoi’s new health status means that they can move fish directly from the Poland facility to the UK, and directly back again.  They can’t however move fish into Holland, Germany, Belgium, etc, and then take them back to Poland.  I understand that Jos, Ernest and Ashley Dart of Yoshikigoi UK, will be making a significant display of their Koi at the All England Koi Show in September.  So, if you want to know how Yoshikigoi compare to Japanese Koi go along and make your own mind up.

What about the USA?  As you read this the first shipment is probably somewhere between Europe and America.  As we reported a week or so ago, they will make their debut at the Tri-State Show on 29th-31st July in New York – http://nishikigoi.life/2016/07/03/see-yoshikigoi-tri-state-zna-koi-show/.

I have 3 return trips to Poland already scheduled which are, I will be honest, paid work, producing a DVD for Yoshikigoi about the farm and its production.  Through those trips I, and I am sure you, will be able to make a more considered and informed opinion about Yoshikigoi.

Some people have stated that Koi is only Koi to them if they come from Japan.  As much as my love for Japan is as ever strong, and indeed whilst in Poland I replied to a breeder ‘but it’s not Yamakoshi’, my real love is Nishikigoi, and their production.  I love being around Koi, I am fascinated with the breeding of Koi, and I love spending time with passionate Koi people, whether that is in Japan, at Purdin in the USA, with my good friend Jeroen van Keulen in Holland or indeed with Jos and Ernest at Yoshikigoi.

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If you want to see more of Yoshikigoi for yourself and are in the UK then contact Ashley Dart – http://www.yoshikigoimanagementuk.com/, if you are in the USA contact Shawn Rosen – http://www.koimarket.com/.

For all other enquiries contact Yoshikigoi Farm – http://www.yoshikigoi.com/

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