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Questions about Fukuoka and Natural Farming  RSS feed

 
Dun Farmin
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Hi. I have a few questions that I would like to ask, one that has come up elsewhere recently.

Without writing a book about it, which is probably there to be written ... ;-),

a) How would you define the relationship between Fukuoka's natural farming method and permaculture? For example, are they two different circles which interact at a certain point or is natural farming one potential within the broader permaculture?

b) You've undoubtably done more than anyone to bring to the world's attention Fukuoka's work, 40 years how much of an effect do you think it has had, and how and where (where not so much geographically but socially)?

c) To what do you ascribe the difference in the 'success' and spread of permaculture in comparison to natural farming? It is interesting that you yourself, in essence, market (if I may use such a vulgar concept) yourself as a permaculturalist now, rather than a natural farmer.

d) Looking back over the 30/40 years since you translated 'One Straw Revolution' how successful do you think it has been communicating Fukuoka's ideas, how complete a picture do you think it gives, would you have done it a different way if you were to do it today?

e) Are there any limitations to the ability to carry out natural farming be and what might they be, e.g. I am thinking quality of land, climate, financial background and land resources etc?

f) Is there any such thing as a "natural farming movement", how do you see it and how has it changed over the decades?

  • I appreciate that the last question might be a little too sensitive, or you might not want to offend or upset anyone by being too direct, so please allow me to do so. What I have seen or experience is a correlation between the natural farming "consciousness" (I find it hard to see anything as cohesive as a movement), and the macrobiotic movement; that is to say, in its early period of expansion into the West it became a little bit extreme and cult-ish even but that it is broadening and mellowing out a bit. Unfortunately, unlike the macrobiotic movement, there have never really been any businesses or school to promote it, nor 'Kushis' to Fukuoka's Oshawa.

  • g) Have you visited any of the Indian natural farmers or have any knowledge of how the movement is doing over there?

    h) What do you think Fukuoka's final most important legacy to this world will be, or indeed the most important part to his message?

    Thank you.

    (FYI, or rather the information of the forum guard dogs ... although 'dun' means brown, the name is one for the Roger Waters fans)
     
    Dun Farmin
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    PS) Did Fukuoka have any spiritual practise at all ... beyond his farming and contemplation of his land?
     
    Brenda Groth
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    I don't know who you were directing your questions to, however, I have read many many authors in areas of permaculture, natural farming, organic gardening and others including Fukuoka..

    I believe that they all have many things in common..and all have several things that they do differently..with Fukuoka and Permaculture there is more of a tend toward LESS WORK in the farming and doing things more like nature would do the things on it's own..but with more interest in feeding people and animals.

    Then when you get into the other directions of the natural farming and organic and similar veins, there is more interest only in using less toxic chemicals to kill pests and still planting things in a monoculture, and some even have much MORE labor such as in double digging, entire fields of monocrops..etc..

    One area that leans more toward the fukuoka and permaculture that gets less attention is the food forest or edible forest gardening..which was done somewhat under fukuoka as he stopped with the pruning and grew things under trees..but he still was leaning more monoculture on his trees themselves..

    In my humble opinion, a food forest garden with a variety of different species of trees that produce, fruit, nuts, timber, berries, craft woods, etc..all underplanted with bushes, understory trees, vine, perennials, annuals, fungii, etc..is the best solution in many ..maybe most..areas of the country to supply the most constant and varied supply of food for a family or a community.

    Why not, instead of dividing things into separate "types of gardening"..just combine as many useful things into your property as you can, adopting the good from all of them, ever learning and ever growing.
     
    Xisca Nicolas
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    Well, I guess the question is for Larry...

    About the spread of natural farming compared to permaculture, I can answer a personal way:

    - Natural farming does not sound as a method, I did not know it. I would not pay attention.

    - Fukuoka's name is more well-known, I heard about it long ago, and I read the 1st book.
    Well, DECEPTION! It is great, but I could make nothing out of it.
    I could try the clay balls, but found it impossible to cover individual seeds. Then I did what i could with the muddy mass, and threw it away in the field. The coming out was very irregular and few seeds grew.

    We need 2 things, 1) understand how plants work out, how we can design, but then, 2) we need a program adapted to each place.
    That is what Fukuoka gave for 2 plants, but I do not grow them...
     
    Dun Farmin
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    Brenda Groth wrote:I don't know who you were directing your questions to ...
    Xisca Nicolas wrote:Well, I guess the question is for Larry...

    No offence meant but, yes, they were meant for Larry Korn. I'm not a beginner and so was looking for more indepth responses from Larry.

    See this thread here ... http://www.permies.com/t/17822/permaculture/Welcome-Larry-Korn-editor-translator#152906 ... (from where my posts were removed for some reason I understand not).
     
    Xisca Nicolas
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    The weekly threat of "welcome" is meant for welcoming, so all questions are moved so that they make a post with its specific title.
    Hope to make you less interrogative now!
    And hope larry will pay a visit here!
     
    Dun Farmin
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    Xisca Nicolas wrote:Hope to make you less interrogative now!
    And hope larry will pay a visit here!

    Could you correct the spelling in the title correctly then?

    I don't want to look like the one who could not spell *Fukuoka* properly. Thanks.


    And, Larry ... if you make here ... leading on from the spiritual practice question, would you care to share with us what you think Fukuoka's "satori" experience was?
     
    larry korn
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    Wow, lots of good questions. First of all, no, Fukuoka-san did not practice any specific spiritual discipline. As far as I know he did not meditate on a regular basis and did not attend "church" on Sunday morning. For him it was all about living within nature and doing the things it took to make his way in the world. That was enough. People, like all other living things, need to sustain themselves and to do that they must interact with the environment in some way. So in that sense, Fukuoka was not simply doing nothing. He was scattering seed, spreading mulch, thinning fruit, mowing the ground cover...doing all the things a farmer needs to do to provide for himself. But the way he did it made the area more abundant for all living creatures even after he harvested what he needed for himself.

    He said that farming as an occupation is not inherently better than other professions, but in simply being in nature everyday with all the other creatures, interacting with the plants, soil, water and sunlight there was a better chance to glimps the infinite. "Is natural farming a spiritual practice?" someone asked him one time. "No," he replied. "It's just farming, but in 'just farming' there is great joy."
     
    larry korn
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    OK, let's tackle the question of the relationship between natural farming and permaculture and my relationship to both. The two methods look similar in many respects. Fukuoka's orchard is a perfect example of what an edible food forest is like. Both emphasize no-tillage and the interconnectedness of things. Both look to nature as a guide. But they are quite different in their approach.

    With permaculture, the practitioner spends a good deal of time considering and observing the site. He or she checks out the plants and animals that are living there, the soil and water conditions, the climate, solar aspect, and so forth. All of this information is gathered together and the permaculturist sits down at a desk and draws up a comprehensive design. The design is human created...a product of the intellect. It is the designer's best shot a deciding what will work best and serve the objective of the overall project.

    Natural farming, on the other hand, begins with the understanding that people can never understand nature. When people make the decisions in an attempt to mimic or improve upon nature unexpected and unwelcome side effects are certain to occur because the human intellect is limited. In natural farming people never take the lead...it is always following nature's direction. When Fukuoka-san set out to develop a natural farming system he had no idea where it would lead or what the creation would look like in the end. He experimented, but only to get practical feedback on which way to go...never for its own sake. Sometimes his experiments lead to a disappointingly low yield, but if he gained a clearer idea of the direction he needed to follow, he considered that year's activity a success.

    Another difference is that permaculture has a certain "what can I get from this land?" undercurrent. If we build better compost or apply aerated compost tea, for example, we will get more yield faster than if we did not use these techniques. Instead of "How about trying this and how about trying that," Fukuoka-san asked, "How about if I didn't do this, or didn't do that." He was aiming for a simplicity in which human decision making eventually was completely out of the picture. Fukuoka approached the land by first asking, "What does nature need here...how can I be of service." In One-Straw he says, "Simply serve nature and all is well." In the end, of course, the natural farmer reaps far greater rewards by following this approach both in yields and in personal growth.

    I am definitely a student of Fukuoka first and a permaculture teacher secondarily, but when I teach permaculture at least I know that 25 energetic people will be out in the world planting trees. That's a good thing, of course. I understand that the world view of Fukuoka's natural farming is foreign to most people at first, mainly because people are used to living in the world created by the human intellect and are comfortable there. Permaculture exists within that world. It is very teachable. You can create a two-week curriculum and teach the fundamentals of permaculture in a way that is makes sense to most students. It is largely a how-to-do-it sort of thing which is appealing, especially Westerners. It is also the reason permaculture has caught on so easily around the world. Natural farming cannot be taught in that way. There is no institute, no curriculum, and no certificates indicating understanding. Practitioners of natural farming are generally happy to peacefully go about their work far below the radar. Again, natural farming has caught on in India more quickly than in any other part of the world. I believe there is a reason for that.
     
    larry korn
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    As for the question about whether or not I feel I have been successful in explaining natural farming and what I would have done differently... Many of the concepts expressed by Fukuoka-san are quite simple, but sometimes his way of explaining them actually obscures their simplicity. It doesn't help that he uses Asian expressions like do nothing and no mind, to explain them which mean nothing to most Westerners. There's not much I can do about that except perhaps write my own book someday with that in mind. One thing I would have definitely changed is the emphasis on the technique over the world view. The world view is the heart of natural farming and the farming is only an example of how this understanding would be expressed in Japan, where he lived with his conditions and so forth. Each person must work out the techniques for themselves. It will be uniqe to where they are living.

     
    Paulo Bessa
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    Dun Farmin wrote:

    a) How would you define the relationship between Fukuoka's natural farming method and permaculture? For example, are they two different circles which interact at a certain point or is natural farming one potential within the broader permaculture?

    Permaculture is about observing nature and attempting to learn from it, by applying similar natural principles. Fukuoka approach was very similar, just letting nature flowing its course, and attempting to reduce amount of work through simple natural principles.
    However, most people became too intelectual with permaculture, it's a western thing. I personally see both Permaculture and Fukuoka and likewise, and in my own Permaculture approach I am very Fukuoka oriented. Each year I let nature do more its own thing. Fukuoka taught me to relax, to observe more than to act, to accept failure, to give away my need to control, and be simple, soulful and happy



    b) You've undoubtably done more than anyone to bring to the world's attention Fukuoka's work, 40 years how much of an effect do you think it has had, and how and where (where not so much geographically but socially)?

    This is a question for Larry :) By the way, thank you so much Larry for your sharings.

    c) To what do you ascribe the difference in the 'success' and spread of permaculture in comparison to natural farming? It is interesting that you yourself, in essence, market (if I may use such a vulgar concept) yourself as a permaculturalist now, rather than a natural farmer.

    Same as before. Western world (and mankind in general) is less confortable with the non-doing and is more methodology and mind oriented. Natural farming is about not using your mind most of the times. It's a kind of Buddhistic gardening.

    d) Looking back over the 30/40 years since you translated 'One Straw Revolution' how successful do you think it has been communicating Fukuoka's ideas, how complete a picture do you think it gives, would you have done it a different way if you were to do it today?

    e) Are there any limitations to the ability to carry out natural farming be and what might they be, e.g. I am thinking quality of land, climate, financial background and land resources etc?

    Using natural farming in mainstream food production is like switching to perennials. It might just be our future solution but we are still far from it, because our culture is so remove from the "permanent" and the "natural". Please remember most of humans live in cities, they already lost most of the link with nature.

    f) Is there any such thing as a "natural farming movement", how do you see it and how has it changed over the decades?

    I hope there will be more in the future. Natural farming is just like importing Buddhism to our farming and food. It brings peace and balance. Even if it is only a little.

  • I appreciate that the last question might be a little too sensitive, or you might not want to offend or upset anyone by being too direct, so please allow me to do so. What I have seen or experience is a correlation between the natural farming "consciousness" (I find it hard to see anything as cohesive as a movement), and the macrobiotic movement; that is to say, in its early period of expansion into the West it became a little bit extreme and cult-ish even but that it is broadening and mellowing out a bit. Unfortunately, unlike the macrobiotic movement, there have never really been any businesses or school to promote it, nor 'Kushis' to Fukuoka's Oshawa.


  • I eat like that. I eat what my body tells me to eat. And still I do the same kind of mistakes ocasionally (like that sweet treaty that makes more bad to me than good). Connecting with your body (and nature) is essential rather than listening so much to ideologies (including "good" ones)

    g) Have you visited any of the Indian natural farmers or have any knowledge of how the movement is doing over there?

    I visited Auroville (a large ecocommunity), many foreigners and indians living together, and they are doing many interesting natural farming practices and permaculture in there. I was really happily surprised. I am sure that India has much more.

    h) What do you think Fukuoka's final most important legacy to this world will be, or indeed the most important part to his message?

    Relax and not doing so much. More observe and only do a little. Listen to nature. Be humble.


    Thank you.

    (FYI, or rather the information of the forum guard dogs ... although 'dun' means brown, the name is one for the Roger Waters fans)
     
    Xisca Nicolas
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    I still like techniques and knowledge, just thinking they must be flexible, and that one must know what is behind it.
    I do not understand this urge to avoid the techniques!
    Well, a person who wants Fukuoka's rice for costa rica misses something as someone who wants a labrador when his real wish is to get the training of a guide dog!

    I believe that something cannot be taught when the teaching technique has to be made better.
    Why not also teach the way to adapt and modify?

    But I agree that, even if I share with some close neighbours, we cannot use all the same techniques, because of the huge differences!
    in our place said to have 5000 different micro-climates, well, we feel the difference by walking a few minutes away!

    I would say that the technique is like the "specie" or even cultivar!
    It is great to understand the genius, the family...
    then one can specialize and experiment for sure.
     
    Xisca Nicolas
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    larry korn wrote:Another difference is that permaculture has a certain "what can I get from this land?" undercurrent. If we build better compost or apply aerated compost tea, for example, we will get more yield faster than if we did not use these techniques.


    A friend told me she did not like permaculture because of this aspect of going on thinking about "exploiting the land",
    and doing too much at the start, even if the goal is to do less afterward, if this moment ever come.
     
    larry korn
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    All good points! By the way, I looked at the photos you posted of where you live. Lovely...and challenging. It must have taken you a long time to build all those stone walls. (haha)
     
    Xisca Nicolas
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    larry korn wrote:"Is natural farming a spiritual practice?" someone asked him one time. "No," he replied. "It's just farming, but in 'just farming' there is great joy."


    "Simply serve nature and all is well." In the end, of course, the natural farmer reaps far greater rewards by following this approach both in yields and in personal growth.


    It is not a spiritual practice, and it is not a desire for big yields, but you get them both!
    (because "great joy" are also other words for the result of some spiritual practice!)
    Am I right to make this parallel between those 2 quotation...
    Is the honest focus from the interior the "world view" in natural farming?
     
    Xisca Nicolas
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    larry korn wrote:All good points! By the way, I looked at the photos you posted of where you live. Lovely...and challenging. It must have taken you a long time to build all those stone walls. (haha)


    Thanks... It is still going on! I go on the job that was started in 1939... the biggest job was the 2 years excavating for making the water tank into the rock.... I talked to an old man who worked there as a young man!
    The place is VERY challenging. Hope to serve it and offer it my tending.
     
    That feels good. Thanks. Here's a tiny ad:
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