“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
listen to any Permie for awhile and, odds are, you’ll hear the name Masanobu Fukuoka. For those of you who aren’t “goofballs who are nuts about permaculture”, He is a well known Japanese natural farming advocate. He is to Japan what Sepp is to Austria. Convinced of the need to be more natural, he left a well to do life as a biologist to work in obscurity on a farm in the mountains of southern Japan. Similar to Holzer, his fame eventually spread as visitors to his little farm left telling others of his unconventional, yet surprisingly productive methods.
This book is a mixture of the Author’s practice and philosophy. I haven’t the time nor the intellect to provide a synopsis of the latter in this post. Suffice it to say, Farming to Fukuoka is about much more than growing rice. Using excellent imagery and philosophy from many sources, though primarily Buddhism and eastern philosophy, He sets forth the reasons why modern man should drastically change his way of life. Much of this portion of the book is thought provoking in the least and highly profound at best. It was, however, incredibly confusing (especially if you aren’t well versed in eastern thought). This, mixed with the fact that he is extreme in his complete rejection of not only chemical sprays but even modern machinery, has led to the rejection of much of his teaching, especially by western readers.
His practice, however, is much easier to understand. He set out to find out not what one should do in farming, but what one should not do. He tried to mimic nature by setting up systems that would mostly take care of themselves. This led him to deviate from not only conventional farming techniques, but also long held traditional practices as well. Being Japanese his work was based mainly on rice, and he advocated an organic, no till rotation. Perhaps most unconventional was his practice of not keeping his fields flooded throughout the year. He also sowed his seed much further apart than most farmers.
Although claiming that his practices could dramatically increase yields and decrease workload for farmers, his teaching has been mostly ignored in the wider world. However, much of his practice is becoming mainstream through the System of Rice Intensification which was developed by others but follows similar systems and now boasts the highest yield ever for any farmer.
This book was definitely worth reading. The philosophical portion was at times difficult (my mind is still spinning trying to get some of the statements), and I’m not going to be growing rice anytime too soon (although some are starting to in Oregon), but the idea of working with nature instead of against her is always applicable. It certainly has me more excited about my small scale barley growing experiment I’m starting this spring, which I’ll be posting about soon.
“Unless people can become natural people,
there can be neither natural farming nor natural food.”