Friday, 25 May 2012

Fumiko Saito

The "soba lady" (soba is buckwheat) first came to Winnipeg, Manitoba about 2004. She did not know a word of English, but had a plan to grow Japanese buckwheat in the Brandon area. Buckwheat is used to make noodles that are usually eaten cold in the summer time. In the city of Takefu we ate soba noodles made of 100% buckwheat flour with Satomi Furuki. Delicious!
Due to Saito-san going to the Japanese Culture Centre in Winnipeg she connected with us. She was so passionate, that suddenly we were enlisted into planting buckwheat throughout our flower garden. Being interested in farming she spent a few days on the farm with cousin Bill and Carol Ann. She was very impressed with the two of them and she left a lasting impression on them.
After a few years she tried to ship the crop, but ran into snags due to not having a full shipping container. She also tried to grow buckwheat in Hokkaido, but farmers there were not cooperative.
She lives in Nagoya and has two fields and a greenhouse a drive away from the her house. Apparently she also has a rental business renting out shop or storage space.
She has had other schemes, but her current plan is to grow olives on Shoodojima Island in the inland sea between Shikoku and Honshu. This island is close to Naoshima Island which we have visited. These islands are near Takamatsu where the climate tends to be drier than other areas of Japan. She has already planted 200 trees and goes to the island every month for a few days to take care of the trees. The olives should start to pay off in seven years. Fumiko is 74 years old and appears to have energy to spare. She plans on building a small home near the olives for her working retirement.
Many people are building the equivalent of summer cottages here. The island has a lot of wildlife including wild boar (inoshishi), Japanese deer (shika) and Japanese macaque monkeys (saru). The deer particularly are a pest with respect to the olive plantation.

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