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Grassroot Fundraiser Spotlight: Nati Ishigaki

Nati Ishigaki is from Poland and lives in Okinawa with her family of six on a turmeric farm. Nati is an Instagram creator, introducing her daily life in Okinawa. She has also published a cookbook in Polish about Japanese winter home cooking. To find more of Nati’s recent activities, check out their Instagram here.

TELL: Can you tell us about your turmeric farm?

Nati: Well, we started growing turmeric a few years ago. We started with one field and we were still living in the city in the southern part of the island. My husband was going to the field every week to take care of the turmeric but was very tired of driving back and forth for hours. That’s why we decided to move to the countryside. We are now expanding to more fields and waiting for our product to be certified in Organic JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standards).

TELL: Tell us about turmeric harvesting.

Nati: I believe that physical activity, such as touching and digging the soil and staying outside for a couple of hours has a great impact on psychological well-being. The seasonal labor of harvesting is a lot of work, and It is just two of us with quite a lot of fields. Inviting people to the field would help us keep going with harvesting, and offer the community to experience the harvesting of turmeric and how time flows in the countryside of Okinawa. We also introduced participants to our go-to beach after eating lunch together and enjoyed beachcombing. It was a big bonus to engage with two different kinds of nature in one event!

TELL: When did you decide to become a farmer?

Nati: My husband always has dreamed of becoming a farmer one day and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed us forward. We realized that when we went to the supermarket, we didn’t know when food would be stocked and how much we could afford, and we had to pay for everything we needed. This is crucial because if there is any sort of emergency, food is the first thing we have to secure for our family. If you know how to manage agriculture, you can store food for all sorts of emergencies. That’s why I liked the concept of being a farmer.

TELL: That’s awesome. So, the first harvesting event was very successful, and it seemed like everyone enjoyed harvesting turmeric both days. Please explain the difference between the first period of the harvest and what you offered in the second event the following month.

Nati: The first event, we set out two types of work. Option one was the heavy work of digging out the turmeric root from the soil. Option two was the lighter task of sorting the turmeric. We didn’t plan it but It just so happened that everyone really loved digging into the dirt and you know, finding a treasure like gold (turmeric). Many people didn’t make it to the second task of sorting the turmeric. At the end of the event, many people asked if they could come back for another day and my husband and I agreed that we wanted people to experience the whole process of harvesting. We decided to host another harvesting event a couple of weeks later. The second event was focused on cracking the root into fingers and sorting. It was really fun because cracking is about gathering as a community. We sit together, we enjoyed all various conversations, we listen to music together and we were simply get to know each other through harvesting!

TELL: Do you have any advice for those considering hosting a fundraiser, but don’t know how to start?

Nati: Mostly we have to think about the participants and prepare for what they would be comfortable with. When we started organizing it, we were thinking about what people may be interested in. It’s not easy to just let people join your work or expect them to do your work. We need to put some thoughts into what is possible for them to work on and provide an easier setting for those who would like to experience something new. This has to be planned. For example, we already dug out some cases of turmeric just in case nobody wants to dig them out for the first event. Also, we considered all types of people may join us such as families with small children, individuals, and groups or people with pets. It is very important to create a good setting and atmosphere of welcoming for people in different contexts.

TELL: Thank you so much, Nati! It was such a lovely event both times. We wish you the best for the rest of the season!