In The Beginning
Even if this is your first time visiting Fiji Joe Turmeric, you are probably wondering how selling turmeric became our thing.
I can tell you that there is a simple – if not multilayered – explanation for the establishment of Fiji Joe Turmeric. And the story goes like this:
In February of 2015, I arrived in Fiji without much of a plan. I had my round-trip ticket from L.A. to Nadi and reservations for the first leg of the journey on the island of Kadavu. Beyond that, I decided to let things happen as they would.
Kadavu is 100 kilometers from Suva, Fiji’s capital, and easily accessible by plane or by ferry. It is lush and green, has no cars, and has one very small town called Vunisea. At first glance, you would guess that nobody lives there but there are approximately seventy-five villages on the island – all connected by footpaths. I enjoyed diving with the enormous manta rays on one side of the island and walking into the water from a white sand beach to snorkel on the other side.
Introducing the Turmeric
I was also given a small sample of turmeric, after having to explain what it was to a local farmer. Turmeric exports from Fiji may have come a long way in the last six years, but at the time the amazing properties of turmeric were still pretty much unknown. I’ll get back to talking about turmeric in a bit, but I want to keep telling you the story of how we got here.
As I sat at the airport in Vunisea ready to leave the island, I had yet to decide upon my next destination. I looked at the available flights and decided on Savusavu as my next stop as I had never been there before. Savusavu is located on Vanua Levu, the second-largest island in Fiji. I was handed a ticket, told that I was going to have to pick up my bags when we landed, and directed to the counter to check-in for my flight.
During the short flight (less than an hour) to Savusavu, I chatted with some people on the plane and after we landed, one of them asked me where I was staying. When I said I didn’t know, he asked what I was looking for and I replied, “a bure would be nice,” a bure being a traditional Fijian-style cabin. He made a couple of calls, and that’s how I ended up at Daku Resort.
Daku Resort sits on about 160 acres of mostly undeveloped land and is normally a very popular place, but I was the only guest on the books. JJ, the owner, became my first friend in Savusavu and remains dear to me to this day as does his wife, Delia.
By this point in my travels around Fiji, the idea of taking turmeric to another level was taking shape, but I had no idea where or how to begin. I decided to start “somewhere” by asking JJ if he would consider leasing some land for me to grow turmeric.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, it should be noted here that I am a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” kind of a person, especially in unknown territory.
JJ said he’d get back to me with a price but suggested I contact a gentleman who had a small house on the property and was starting to grow cocoa. He introduced me to Richard Markham via email, and it is an understatement to say that it was a game-changer.
At the time, Richard was working for the Australian government helping to create sustainable, organic programs throughout the South Pacific. Not just a cocoa grower, but kind of a badass! And a very kind and knowledgeable one at that, who generously shared information about organic farming and Fiji.
(And although not an important part of the story, I spent my last days of this trip on Waya Island at Octopus Resort – very cool and highly recommended)
… and now I’m an organic farmer of Turmeric
Later in the year, I attended an agri-business conference in Suva at Richard’s invitation, where my identification badge said, “Independent Researcher”. It was put on by the Australian Centre for International Research and featured agricultural products from Fiji. Flour made from breadfruit, kava powder and drinks, tiny jar-packed sea grapes, and dried ginger, to name a few. Best of all were the people I met and the stories about the creative agricultural endeavors they were involved in.
When asked what I was about, I said that I wanted to find the best turmeric in Fiji and propagate it to create a large supply for export. Very little was coming out of the country then, and there were no large turmeric farms. Well, my new friends at the conference thought that was a great idea, and they had more ideas on where I could go to get samples and meet like-minded people.
And the rest, as they say, is history… check out our shop!