I am an American writer living in Japan where my work focuses on food, farming, and farmers markets with the occasional travel piece. Over the course of my time here, it has been my great pleasure to meet and visit a number of small farmers and learn from them while sharing the bounty of their fields.
They, particularly those practicing organic methods, present a very real solution to much of what ails our world, from a lack of community and environmental degradation to obesity and climate change. Telling their stories – whether that of a Tohoku farmer still coping with the effects of the 2011 triple disaster, a brother and sister duo in Nara combining natural farming techniques with traditional practices, the Tokyo organic farmers I worked with every day for five years, or a Kanagawa farmer quietly preserving heirloom seeds – has been an honor.
My work is undoubtedly inspired by my ancestors: German and Irish immigrants who left behind friends and family to start new lives in the fields and furrows of the American Midwest. My life in Japan has, in many ways, brought me closer to them and the complexities of that history. I am sure that I seek out the stories I do in order to better understand my heritage, both good and bad, as well as myself. It is something of a long way around, but I find that taking the scenic route affords better views.
My current efforts are divided between articles and book reviews about women in food, permaculture, natural farming, and traditional food practices in Japan along with essays about my experiences here. Farming the same land season after season for literally thousands of years, I believe the Japanese farmers I meet and spend time with have much to share with the rest of the world, and I’d like to help facilitate that.
To that end, I’ve recently added teaching about food to my activities. My students and I explore their food cultures through a different lens each week, including local foods, defiant foods, and hidden food culture as well as learning about the interaction of soil and climate and the growers and producers who help put magic on the plate. It’s an extraordinary journey, not least because of what they unearth and share with me in their homework. I am sometimes not sure who is learning from whom!