Ayako & Family was founded around a friendship, a community and a shared value system around food growing and making.
Katsumi Taki and Ayako Gordon, by Aran Goyoaga
Ayako Gordon met Katsumi Taki at the University District Farmers Market in 2009, one of the oldest farmer driven markets in Seattle. Taki, who emigrated from Japan to pursue Organic farming nearly thirty years ago, owns a 25-acre farm in Wapato, Washington, where Japanese and Japanese-American owned and operated farming community is historic. Ayako, a Tokyo-native, who has integrated Japanese home-style cooking into her daily life in Seattle, was inspired by Taki's Japanese heirloom fruit and vegetables; she was frequently reminded of the food her family would harvest and cook at her grandfather's farm just outside of Tokyo proper.
Ayako's mission when cooking has always been simplicity and honesty – the food that feels and tastes whole, even highlighting the natural imperfection that is born from anything that is hand grown and handmade. The "number twos" of apricots, the over ripe and slightly blemished from the farm, fueled the first batches of Ayako & Family jam. From our ingredient sourcing to preserving processes, Ayako & Family continues to produce with the fruit as the core expression of each product. Each spoonful of jam, there is recalled, like memory, a certain time of year, a hot day, wetter soil, perhaps even the gentle care of each hand. We preserve this story, the one of the farmer and his harvest, and in turn, share it with you in hopes that when it lands on your kitchen table, it can evoke the memories of food making of your own.
Today, Ayako & Family, now led by daughter, Alessandra, still produces by hand and in small batches over twenty varietals of hybrid and heirloom plum jams, with the addition of Rhubarb, Apricot and Quince jams into the collection. And we return to the farmers market where Ayako and Katsumi met and formed this indelible partnership, where through our booth, we can continue to sell our jam and continue a tradition of Japanese heritage farm-to-table food.
From top left, clockwise: farmhands picking Italian plums; a basket full of French plums ready to be sorted and washed; flats of China Red plums; Ayako taking in the aromas of a Japanese pear. Images courtesy of Sonja Lyon.