Masanobu Fukuoka had a long and fruitful life from 2 February 1913 – 16 August 2008 in which he slowly developed and re developed his theories which led to his pioneering actions as a perme culture hero. A Japanese farmer and philosopher his book The One Straw Revolution explores and celebrates his journey through natural farming techniques. He was able to show evidence in his fields of how no-till, no-herbicide grain cultivation farming methods traditional to many indigenous cultures, was more productive acre by acre to the leading commercial farmers in Japan.
Fukuoka called his agricultural philosophy shizen nōhō, most commonly translated into English as “natural farming”. It is also referred to as “the Fukuoka Method”, “the natural way of farming” or “Do-Nothing Farming”. Although rather than just letting the fields go, it is based on forward thinking of combination planting, green manures and underplanting for weed suppression and in the case of rice production using flooding to suppress weeds. Using natural mimicry and understanding important times in which to act, a certain cycle and relationship was created between himself and his land. Although all harvesting etc was done via hand tools, this technique gave enough time for a farmer to contemplate the arts, spirituality and poetry, rather than the constant grind and high maintenance practices known by the modern farming system.
Natural Farming is based on the recognition of the complexity of living organisms that shape an ecosystem and then exploiting such relationships for the good of the user as well as the environment. The idea of farming not just as a means of producing food but as an aesthetic and spiritual approach to life has been a great inspiration for our project.
Fukuoka s principles of Natural Farming can be seen as..
human cultivation of soil, plowing or tilling is unnecessary, the use of powered machines causing problems to the soil structure creating run off issues and exposing soil to uncontrollable weeds
prepared fertilizers are unnecessary, as is the process of preparing compost, the green manures and nitrogen fixing plants used in planting create necessary feeds and returning husks and green waste from harvest directly back to the ground create an easy mulch and weed suppressant.
weeding, either by cultivation or by herbicides, is unnecessary. Instead only minimal weed suppression is required with minimal disturbance focusing on the most aggressive of types.
applications of pesticides or herbicides are unnecessary as a natural eco system encourages a balance of predator/ prey insects that takes care of any disorder over time.
pruning of fruit trees is unnecessary if left from saplings. Their natural form gives rise to the greatest harvest. If however pruning has been carried out then it must continue, as Fukouka found out to his misfortune wiping out acres of trees that died due to being already pruned: once these were left they began growing inwards on themselves creating fungal issues etc.
Fukuoka demonstrates how the way we look at farming influences the way we look at health, education, our relationship with nature, nutrition and spiritual health; the very building blocks of life itself. He believed that the future of human existing related to how the future of farming was carried out, as it is universally our greatest connection we have with our earth. In our journey towards this, he states that it is not just the farmer and scientist that must join hands but also the poet, philosopher, warrior and architect.
Although coming up against great commercial conflict with those leading figures that saw his way as a huge loss for the chemical and farming industry Fukouka’s influence begins to ripple out across the world joining hands with other perme cultural pioneers that begin to shape a new vision of how we can relate with the natural world.
His belief that the healing of the land is inter related to the process of purifying the human spirit and proposes a way of life and a way of farming in which such healing can take place. He is an inspiring example of another way. We owe him and his colleagues so much, and I hope in time people like him get the respect amongst the everymans of our society that is due.