Do you know this guy? I’ve never met anyone who’s more passionate about one thing.
When Jack talks about peanut butter, you get a glimpse into the eyes of a five-year-old boy, bare-bellied up to the kitchen table just about chin level. As peanut butter and bread sticks and unsticks to the roof of his mouth, homemade blackberry jelly extends both creases in his smile. Grandma asks, “Did you wash your hands, Jack?” as she pours full his glass of milk.
You there. Now stop right there in your peanut butter bear tracks. Even after that heartwarming story, I know there’s at least one of you right now, unconvinced, saying to yourself, ‘Nah-uh, no way. I like peanut butter more than Jack does any day of the week.’
Listen. Put down the spoon and your pint size tub of Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream and hear me out.
Jack’s got a full house.
For more than 30 years, he and his wife, Faye, have called a quiet riverside nook at the base of the foothills to the Chichibu Mountains in Saitama, Japan home. Bamboo trees. Pair of koi fish take turns kissing the river bottom to the summer love song of cicadas– rier, rier, rier– rii. ri-ri-ri-rii-i. Down the street across the bridge you can buy handmade miso and kuro yuba dried black tofu skin.
30 years ago in Saitama, Japan, you couldn’t find peanut butter at the supermarket. But that’s no trouble for a resourceful guy like Jack. By the way, the two beautiful wooden barns he works and lives in he built himself with wood imported from Australia and Canada. Check it out.
For over 25 years now, Jack’s been importing his own. For over 25 years, he’s developed personal relationships with the farmers and the nice, down-to-earth people who make his peanut butter. He’s been to the farm where the peanuts grow, he’s seen the peanuts being roasted and ground up at the peanut butter factory. He knows exactly what’s in every tub of his peanut butter: the best organically grown peanuts and nothing else.
The peanut butter he eats has HIS OWN LABEL ON IT.
Still thinking you like peanut butter?
I had the privilege to sit down with Jack Bayles, the owner of Alishan Organic Center. If you go shopping anywhere in Japan for organic food, you probably recognize his label. Want organic almonds? Alishan. Organic oatmeal? Alishan.
In a nutshell, Alishan is one of the largest importers of organic food in the country. Listening to Jack changed the way I think about food and the way I eat. Now I make eating organic a priority and try to cut back on eating animal protein and fats. Someday I think I’ll look back at this one day trip to Hidaka, Saitama as the one day that changed everything. Thanks, Jack!
Here’s what he had to say.
Jack: Japan has the highest per acre application of pesticides in the world.
That didn’t mean that Japanese farmers growing food for their own table are using the pesticides on those vegetables. But Japan has a, sadly, very, very high synthetic chemical application level.
Wow. That’s shocking. I thought it would be the opposite.
For someone who hasn’t quite been convinced to start eating organic yet– it’s more expensive– are their any fruit or vegetables that you recommend we should definitely be choosing organic?
Watch this video link to listen to his answer. (video length: 3 minutes)
If you were to do the opposite of what you are doing and export one healthy Japanese food to the rest of the world, which food would it be?
Watch this excerpt of the interview to find out. (video length: 2 minutes 36 seconds)
What’s the best way for people to find you online so they can visit your organic and vegetarian cafe and shop or order organic foods online?
Jack: Certainly, if you go to our homepage or Instagram, you will find us, you will see what we’re doing out here. We have food carnivals. We have market days where we have twenty different farmers, bread bakers, and local food makers set up in a marche. That would be in early October, October 7th this year.
The homepage has shopping in English and in Japanese. We take credit cards. Pick up a phone and call us. We’re happy to talk in whatever language you want.
Alishan Organic Center Homepage:
BONUS VIDEO! Jack “the peanut butter guy” shares one of Alishan’s top products…