I spent yesterday working on the Farmers’ Market on Ajishima Island, with Rick and Michie Mickelson, who live on the island, and are coordinating a variety of projects there to support the local community, promote self-sufficiency, and boost the island’s economy. Originally the market was planned to be at an outdoor location, but an unused building since became available, so we set to work on clearing out the space and converting it into an indoor market. I spend so much of my time in the UK selling at outdoor farmers’ markets, that I can greatly appreciate the benefits of an indoor one!
Rick is a genius at recycling materials he comes by. Once we had cleared out everything in the building, he set to work making beautiful display boxes out of wood offcuts, while I sanded down the walls ready to be repainted.
There are only three shops on the whole island, selling just a few staples and the odd instant ramen, and these shops are open on an irregular basis. The nearest shop to the market’s location closed down some time ago, and everybody is excited about the new market opening. As is always the case on Oshika, people stopped by and asked what we were doing, then said how much they were looking forward to the market opening. My sander always seemed just a little bit less heavy after these little chats with the locals.
As this market is there to serve the local community, its original plan of just selling fresh fruit and vegetables grown on the island has developed further in order to meet local needs. There will be a very small section of “outside” products, such as milk and soy sauce, which will expand according to islanders’ requests. This will be a good way to keep people regularly visiting the market. There will also be a small clothes section, based on the free shop I have run on the peninsula every time I have come here. Since my last trip, the little “container” I used for the free shop has been removed and made way for extra parking space at the combini, but people outside of Oshika still often contact me and ask if they can send items to the free shop. I don’t have anywhere to display them now, but there is a need for them on Ajishima, and space can be made available within the market. There is nowhere to buy clothes at all on Ajishima — islanders have to take the ferry to Ishinomaki if they need clothes, or rely on family off the island to mail them. Only a few young people do online shopping here, and having a clothing space available at the market will help the island become more self-sufficient.
As when I did the free shop, its contents were very much based on the needs of the Oshika residents; so if you would like to send anything, please check the list of accepted goods carefully. Imagine a community of elderly farmers — men and women — and you may get the idea of the kind of things they could really use. I asked them for a wish list, which included welly boots (gumboots/rubber boots), rainwear/windbreakers, farming/gardening gloves, hoodies, socks, and Crocs. If you have any of the above items that are clean and in reasonable condition (they don’t need to be new) then the islanders would very much appreciate them. The market would also welcome any natural woven/bamboo baskets for making displays of fruit and vegetables, or handicrafts made by the islanders. If you would like to send anything, please send it by post office or Yamato Kuronecko (please DO NOT send anything by any other couriers as they charge the islanders for receiving goods whereas the post office and Yamato Kuronecko do not) to:
There is a soft opening for the market planned for January 19th, and the official opening scheduled for February 1st, considered to be an auspicious day. If you happen to be able to send any items to arrive by January 18th, then they can be displayed ready for the soft opening, but of course items are welcome afterwards. And unlike the free shop I ran, you can send items throughout the year, as this is not dependent on me being here to manage the items.
The Farmers’ Market alone is a big project for Rick and his team to organise, and is just one of many that we have supported, including the Community Kitchen, the playground, dog run, beehive, yuzu orchard, as well as others. Please know that your ongoing support of this island community is very much appreciated.