Joan BaileyFarmer, Writer

"I thought it was crazy, but I said: Ok, let's do it!" Joan Bailey works as a farmer in Tokyo and writes about farming and farmermarkets there. Before she gained experience in various jobs all over the world, from bartending to nonprofit-work. When she came to Japan, she wanted to grow things and just asked farmers there, if she could have a garden. Her advice: "Don´t be intimidated, just follow your dreams!"


Was steht auf Deiner Visitenkarte?

On my business card, it says my name Joan Bailey, and it says writer, but my other job is farmer.

Worum geht es in Deinem Job?

What usually happens is during the morning I come to the farm, and I do whatever the farmers ask me to do which is usually harvesting or planting, sometimes weeding. Then in the afternoon I spend that writing, and that means emailing or working on an article, and communicating with people, sometimes an interview. Most of my writing is about food and farming, and farmers markets actually in Tokyo. I give a lot of my material which also includes recipes from this farm of course, from my experience here, and then I visit a lot of farmers markets in Tokyo, sort of a ridiculous number. And then I also visit other farms in Tokyo and in Japan.

Wie sieht Dein Werdegang aus?

My background is: in university I studied English Literature, and I studied that because ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. But after university, I spent some time as a barmaid in England and then I came back and I worked a corporate job for a very short period of time, but I found that it wasn't a good fit for me. But, I got married and then my husband and I joined the United States Peace Corps and we went to Kazakhstan, and we lived there for two years. While I was there, I taught English at a specialized high school and did some other non-profit work. So from there, I came back to the US, got a Masters Degree in sociology with an emphasis in community and economic development. Then I worked for another small non-profit in Michigan, which I really enjoyed, but a lot of my work, it just so happened, focused around gardening and not so much farming, but we lived in a very rural place and our friends were farmers and I had my first garden. Then Richard, my husband, got the job offer at Asia University. He had been teaching and then decided to take a break, but we decided we needed to do something different. We were living in the country very rurally and we were a little bit bored, so I took a year off and worked on a friend's organic farm, and really fell in love with it and went to the market with their farm. So we came here and I wanted to be able to farm, and I didn't really want to teach. So I decided that I would really focus on my writing, and then I discovery farmers markets and so now I just put it all together. We had come to Tokyo, and I wanted to be able to grow things, but I couldn't find a good solution. So a friend found a map of area farms and suggested that we go and ask the farmers if I could have a garden. I thought that was crazy, but I said, "Okay, let's do it." So we did it, and this is one of the farms we visited, and they said no, I couldn't have a garden, but what I could do is come one day a week and work with them on projects. Then I just kept coming, and now I come every day.

Ginge es auch ohne Deinem Werdegang?

Yes, I'm sure it's possible, but the main thing you'd have to have, you probably want to have, well, an ability to write, so to be able to communicate well in writing, and you'd want to have an interest in farming. You don't do this because you think you're going to get wealthy either job, and you don't do it because, I mean, this is not lucrative, so, yeah. You have to have a certain level of passion for both things to be able to do it. I mean, you could be a rocket scientist and decide to do this, but you'd better have some passion and you'd better have some ability, and maybe bring some work clothes with you.

Was ist das coolste an Deinem Job?

When I'm writing, it's when I know that I've been able to craft a really good sentence that conveys an idea or a place or a person or a thing really well. When I'm here, it's a little more intangible in a way. Like, it's when I figure out maybe what's a problem in the soil, and I can help my plants grow better. But also probably the thing I like best about being here is that I'm outside.

Welche Einschränkungen bringt Dein Job mit sich?

For writing, the hardest part is being inside at a desk. I really struggle with that sometimes, and sometimes it's writing about something I don't really that much care about or agree with. That can be really hard. Here at the farm, probably the hardest thing is sometimes it's getting up early. Because in summer we have to get really, really early and the work is really hard in summer, and I don't really like that. I mean, I like it, but after a couple months, I don't like it that much. But I do it.

Drei Ratschläge an Dein 14jähriges Ich!

My advice to my 14-year-old self would be talk more to your Uncle Elmer. He was a farmer and he was very old, and he was very, very, very grouchy, but a lot of what he did I wish I knew now, and I wish I had paid more attention to him. The other one would be pay more attention to my mother because a lot of her food traditions I want to know now. I can still ask her, but I should have paid more attention. The other one would be don't be intimidated. Just follow your dreams. If you know what you want to do, do it.