THE FARMER WHO STARTED A REVOLUTION
In the southern part of Japan overlooking the Matsuyama Bay is a rich farming area with a mild climate, plentiful rain and rich cultural heritage. [easyazon_link identifier=”1590173139″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]Masanobu Fukuoka[/easyazon_link]’s family has been farming in this area for over 1400 years. It is a place from which one would not expect radical ideas nor grand departures from methods steeped in history. Transformations occur over decades if not centuries in places like this and particularly so with endeavors such as farming. This is the story of Masanobu Fukuoka and the growth of a simple idea grounded in truth into a revolution that has transformed the approach to farming across the globe.
As often happens to boys as they grow into men Masanobu left the family farm to study microbiology at university, There he spent long hours in the laboratory measuring and practicing scientific procedures. It was a place for transforming the mind into one of action based on the disciplines of scientific practice. One wonders if it was also the place Masanobu realized the limitations of the laboratory approach. Had he become a scientist who could not trust science alone?
After university Masanobu took a job as an agricultural customs inspector which allowed him to put into practice the lessons of plant disease control. For 8 years he devoted himself to increasing wartime food productivity. During that time he pondered the relationship between science and agriculture. Chemical agriculture had gained a reputation as being generating superior yields. Could natural agriculture stand up to modern science? At 25 he had a moment of serious doubt. Had chosen the correct path? An intense period of reflection led to the submission of his resignation – an event that utterly shocked his co-workers – but it was an action that had ultimately set him free to find an answer.
KERNEL OF TRUTH
Having returned to his farming village to begin anew. For 30 years he pursued the “do nothing” method of farming with little contact outside his village. His goal was to make farming pleasant and natural. Rather than thinking “What if I did this?” he instead though “What if I don’t do this?” Ultimately he realized there is no need to plow, fertilize, compost nor use insecticide. Only a few things actually needed to be done and the rest could be left to nature. How did he arrive at a conclusion that flew opposite to the winds of modern farming methods?
Masanobu found himself passing by a field that had been left unplowed for years. To his surprise new rice seedlings were sprouting through the weeds and grass. It was a moment that emboldened him to break from traditional methods. Nature had provided the example to follow. No longer would he plant in spring after flooding the fields. Rather he mimicked what he had observed in the empty field. A schedule was developed in which seeds were spread in the autumn directly on the surface. To control weeds a permanent ground cover of white clover and straw replaced plowing. For the dormant winter months rye and barley are planted and then harvested in spring. Their stalks are separated form kernels then spread across the fields unshredded. Water is added to the fields for a short time to allow the dormant rice seeds to sprout. As the field conditions swayed in favor of the crops the “intervention” with the plants, insects and animals living in the fields was minimized.
As an idea taken at face value it may seem as though the message is to stay at home in bed all day and everything will take care of itself. In fact the message is to only do what is necessary. To achieve this goal one first must understand how things work. Most scientific approaches take this approach on a micro level. To be successful at “do nothing farming” one must go beyond understanding what is in front of you. One must seek to also understand how it fits into the whole of the ecosystem, the planet and by extension the very universe itself. Biodynamics is an example of this approach in that it considers forces outside planet Earth and how they influence it. We see the tides of the ocean rise and fall throughout the day and know that this is the moon’s influence through gravitational pull that causes this effect. Does it not seem a reasonable extension to consider naive any action that ignores effects that occur beyond a single plant or even a farm field?
In taking a cooperative approach to nature one is able then to harness its strengths all the while reducing the amount of human intervention or “work” required. It is an approach that rather than seeking to conquer nature instead chooses to work along side.
ONE STRAW REVOLUTION
Zen Buddhism and Taoism inform and influence the teaching methods of [easyazon_link identifier=”1603585222″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]Natural Farming[/easyazon_link]. Believing it proceeds from the spiritual health of the individual, Masanobu sees the healing of land and purification of the human spirit as a singular process. His philosophy allows the for both to occur simultaneously.
Under his tuelage students make do without modern conveniences. Instead they live in mud huts and carry water from the spring and cook over a wood burning stove. Light is provided by candles and kerosene lamps. Food is completely provided by what they gather or harvest nearby. Herbs and vegetables from the fields and fish from local rivers or ponds. All of this has the effect of aligning one’s body with the rhythms of nature. Seasons and weather dictate the daily activities. Living this way on a daily basis helps one tune in to the sensitivity of nature’s subtle voice. The links between what is seen and the invisible forces that link it to the whole of nature slowly reveal themselves.
What forces turn a philosophy of into a revolution are difficult to identify and perhaps impossible to measure. What is certain is that the truth of the wisdom being parted was easy to identify and act upon by many. Neither culture nor geographic isolation prevented this truth from reaching out across the planet.
GROWTH IN AMONGST THE WEEDS
Like many revolutionaries Masanobu was not willing to accept the status quo as the inevitable truth. Whether it be ancient traditions or modern scientific methods he was of the mind to question first. By applying both practical knowledge founded in experience and scientific knowledge formed in specialization he believed one could arrive at wholeness of knowledge. Under this view the piece-mealing of specialized knowledge was unhealthy and potentially even dangerous.
the ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops ….. it is the cultivation of human beings
Principles of modern farming applied specialized solutions without considering the ecosystem as a whole. As an example, spraying a field with a chemical to eliminate weeds may lead to a temporary rise in yields. However, the adjacent streams or fields will face an accumulation of the chemicals over time. As these chemicals build the overall health of the supporting ecosystem starts to decline. Science would see this as a successful application because it does not see the whole – only a single piece.
Trees grow on hillsides with a white clover mat covering and enhancing the forest floor. Vegetables are grown in open spaces between the orchards trees. Chickens run freely and the system operates effortlessly each element in harmony. Unharvested vegetables reseed and return in greater abundance year after year.
THE CASE FOR YIELDS
Research has shown that all three methods – Natural, Traditional and Chemical – result in comparable yields. The effect each method had on the health of the soil is markedly different. Using [easyazon_link identifier=”B00SM1MKO8″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]Natural farming[/easyazon_link]methods improves the fertility, composition and water retention of the soil year after year. Traditional farming nets yields in direct relation to the amount of compost and manure applied. Chemical farming, however, drains and depletes the soils fertility in a short time leaving it lifeless.
Today there is an increasing demand for organic produce both in the home and in restaurants. The general awareness of the long-term dangers of chemical farming has grown and with it the desire for alternative methods.
the more a farmer increases the scale of the operation … the more one’s body and spirit is dissipated
FARMING FOR THE FUTURE
PHILOSOPHY OF THE WHOLE
Caring for a small field of vegetables is a microcosm for how to work for the greater good. Humans are at their best when working for other humans. Little actions within the confines of a plot of land amplify throughout the natural world in ways we have not yet understood. This is the very essence of Masanobu Fukuoka’s [easyazon_link identifier=”1590173139″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]One Straw Revolution[/easyazon_link]. The cumulative effect of both our individual and collective actions can make a difference.
in the effort to possess agriculture one loses joy …. this is the essence of natural farming
if one deeply understands the everyday world in which one lives, the greatest of worlds will be revealed
FIVE PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL FARMING
- NO TILLAGE
- NO FERTILIZER
- NO PESTICIDES / HERBICIDES
- NO WEEDING
- NO PRUNING
BOOKS BY MASANOBU FUKUOKA
[easyazon_link identifier=”1590173139″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]One Straw Revolution[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”1603585222″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”0870406736″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]Regaining the Paradise Lost[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”8185987009″ locale=”US” tag=”l04d5-20″]Natural Way of Farming[/easyazon_link]