Under a vast corinthian blue sky, an explosive cumulous cloud hovers, casting long shadows over an organic field where Debby Takikawa kneels on soft, rich soil between rows of infant lettuce growing under a hot afternoon sun.
The six-acre farm Takikawa inherited from her maternal grandmother four decades ago in Los Olivos, Ca., is where Takikawa claims she finds inner peace. This land is her spiritual beacon; and Takikawa has been it’s anchor ever since her parents passed away, leaving her in charge of the family business of organic farming, an endeavor that has supported her clan for over three decades. Here, in the Santa Ynez Valley, “The Garden Of…..” produces certified organic produce distributed to the community via local farmer’s markets, which the family attends three times a week.
The crew that operates the farm doesn’t stretch far beyond family ties. Takikawa’s husband, Shu Takikawa, her daughter Noey Turk, 38, and son Kai Takikawa, 17, divide responsibilities. Their chores and duties vary, depending on the season, and the crops planted, which Shu Takikawa determines, and rotates seasonally to preserve the mineral balance in the soil. Now, in the middle of winter, it’s slow season, and the days are short. But, make no mistake, farming this land is tough! The workday begins at sunrise and ends only when the sun sets, every day except Sunday, when the family sleeps in till 8:00 a.m.
Takikawa studies baby leaves of the butter lettuce, carefully checking for potentially harmful insects. Since the farm is registered organic, no pesticides are ever used, even in dire circumstances. And, if an infestation attacks a crop, the only solution is to plow the field down, and start all over again.
Takikawa’s husband Shu, was one of the first organic farmers in the central valley, and Takikawa raves about his gold plated green thumb, making him the quarterback of the garden team. It’s a good thing, because without his skills, and creative style of farming, Takikawa might not have felt comfortable switching gears four years ago when she decided to become a documentary filmmaker in her spare time.
“There’s no way I could pursue this endeavor if Shu weren’t here,” says Takikawa. “He’s got his own style of farming that’s very creative, which makes it easier on me, especially now, when I’m so busy with my projects. He’s very understanding, and supportive.”
Takikawa is currently immersed in production on her third film in less than a decade – which is quite surprising – since she’s had no formal training in filmmaking. She’s completely selftaught, and after checking the lettuce, she’s heading to her office on the second floor of the family’s home, to edit her latest footage, in Final Cut Pro. It’s impressive indeed, because this enterprising and talented individual is tackling tough technology. Up until a few years ago, Takikawa had barely touched a computer beyond emails and simple Google searches, and now her skills grow bountifully, like the crops in the fields around her.
Passionately driven. Takikawa’s focused on the bulls-eye. You might say she’s an active….activist, and film is the artery of communication she’s chosen to pursue her cause, which is: Infants and children, and how our babies are slowly being poisoned towards potential extinction because of toxic chemicals ingested through a diet of genetically altered food, and pesticides prolific in our food chain.
“The core chord of a newborn in this country can register more than 200 toxic chemicals in their blood stream, and that’s what they face even before they are born, since the pollutants in the mother’s blood contaminates the baby, in utero. Our offspring are already at a disadvantage, and a serious one at that, even before they cross the gate.” Takikawa, a chiropractor in her former career, is adamant about changing this social disease.
Takikawa’s first film, entitled “What Babies Want,” is feature length, exposing the severity of risks regarding the safety and nurturing of our children, and her concerns are validated by a long list of professionals who corroborate an unsettling, disturbing diagnosis. The film, narrated by E.R.’s Noah Wiley, received wide acclimation among her new peers in the motion picture industry, winning several awards at film festivals across the country.
Takikawas’s second film, “Reducing Infant Mortality” is an 18-minute short dealing with the harsh reality of prolific infant abuse, which led Takikawa to establish a non-profit organization geared specifically to reducing the risks of abuse to our newborns. It’s a hideous subject no onelikes to talk about, but Takikawa won’t settle for that; she’s on a mission to educate the population regarding the severe risks our children face, beginning the day of conception.
To break the tragic tone of her first films, Takikawa’s new project is uplifting, and hopeful. “I don’t want this film to be depressing, because the subject is already, so, so depressing,” she says cheerfully. “This film will deal with how to teach mothers, and caretakers of children, the importance of focusing on a diet that is organic, and how easy it really is to feed your children in a healthy way.”
Takikawa has already raised thousands for her production, which comes from local industries in the area that support her cause. “I want the children to teach the children,” Takikawa beams.
On the first day of shooting, she orchestrated a children’s cooking show, in which Orin Grant, a four-year-old charismatic boy is chef, an prepares on camera, both a wholesome main dish for his family using organic garden vegetables, and a carrot cake for desert. Surprisingly, this little man did a phenomenal job as host. Adorable just doesn’t describe the experience of watching this child chef teach his audience about nutrition and a healthy diet. The project is both in development, and in production, and if Takikawa has her way, you can expect to see, perhaps, “Baby Chef” on Nickelodeon next year.
Once again, Takikawa brings us back to the beginning, reminding us ultimately, it’s all about “What Babies Want.”