First, I agree that the closing remarks about Fukuoka's family continuing to run his farm are best omitted, if the only alternatives are either to falsely imply that they continue his methods or to rebuke them because they fail to do so. Here, Aristole's "golden mean" does not seem achievable, except in silence. Better to say nothing than to say one of two equally unacceptable things.
On the draft of the "Overview": Your historical, evolutional approach to Fukuoka is right on target. You show where the human race has been, the mistakes they have made, and the paths they are now taking to correct them and reconnect with nature. Your account is balanced and sane.
Some editorial comments: Capitalize "back," in "back and arm muscles were eventually supplemented...."
The sentence "This was something that natural ecosystems had a hard time dealing with and a lot of ecological damage was and in some parts still is done" needs to be refocused; some phrase should explain what substantive the word "parts" refers to.
Maybe "This was something that natural ecosystems had a hard time dealing with; a lot of ecological damage was, and in some parts of the world, still is done by this method.
"This was something that natural ecosystems had a hard time dealing with--a lot of ecological damage was done, and in some parts of the world, still is done by this method."
"This was something that natural ecosystems had a hard time dealing with. Such artificial chemical methods did great ecological damage and continue to do so today in some parts of the world."
One more tag (if someone hasn't already suggested it ): "Living Mulch."
Your recent discussion of planting fruit trees close together suggests the biointensive method of Chadwick, Jeavons, et al. in planting veggies close together. It also brings up the question of whether "forest farming" is emerging as a category of sustainable agriculture separate from permaculture. I'm not sure, but there seems to be some movement toward making forest farming a virtually "no-input" system. The publishing house Chelesa Green has a couple of people working on a book about this direction in forest farming. Jamie's concerns about the non-sustainablilty of using dwarf trees are legitmate. But does anybody know if one day dwarf trees might become fully "naturalized." Are complete, self-sustaining systems of "dwarf forests" impossible?
Larry Haftl wrote:As if you didn't have enough to clog your inbox... here is a draft
of the first part of a proposed "Overview" (spellchecked this time).
If you have any comments or suggestions please let me know. The
second part will contain a brief description of Biointensive, Biodynamic,
Organic, and Permaculture. If you think of any other method that
should be described please let me know ASAP.
Here is the proposed OVERVIEW, part 1.
OVERVIEW OF THE FUKUOKA FARMING METHOD
"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,
but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." - Masanobu Fukuoka
The teachings of Masanobu Fukuoka can be viewed from two distinctly
The first is to consider his teachings as a spiritual guide that
uses farming (or gardening or agriculture) as a path that can lead
to personal enlightenment. A spiritual perspective if you will. We
will examine his teachings from this perspective in the "Philosophy"
section of this website.
The second perspective is to look at his teachings as an inspirational
guide on how to grow food and fiber in an ecologically beneficial
and sustainable way. That is what we will do in this section.
Which perspective you choose to use is entirely up to you.
The Fukuoka Farming Method in Today's World
In this document, as in others on this website, the terms gardening,
farming, and agriculture are used and considered to be, for our
purposes, synonymous and interchangeable. It is the scale of implementation
that actually differentiates them.
Agriculture today is awash in terms, theories and practices that
can be contradictory, complementary, misused, misunderstood, and
generally confusing. To sort it all out and give you a useable picture
of the Fukuoka Farming Method a little background, terribly generalized
and simplistic, is needed.
When humans gave up hunting and gathering and turned to agriculture
to fill their bellies more than 8,000 years ago they started using
sticks to scratch the soil and plant desirable seeds. Sticks eventually
turned into plows. back and arm muscles were eventually supplemented
by domesticated animals and then machines. When they ran out of plowable
land they simply leveled nearby brushlands and forests using machetes,
axes and fire, and then plowed and planted some more. This became
the dominant agricultural model in almost all of the world, and still
goes on today in some parts.
At the end of World War II this model began to change, at least in
"developed" and "developing" countries. Companies that used to sell
synthetic chemicals to fight the war lost most of their market in
1945. Rather than go out of business they switched to selling their
chemicals to farmers by starting what they called the "Green Revolution.
" By using synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides along with
large and expensive machines to spread them (the tank and truck manufacturers
didn't want to go out of business either) a new method of farming
was developed that dramatically increased yields. Unfortunately,
it also increased chemical contamination of the foods produced and
depleted the soil's ability to support life and produce more food.
Using chemical fertilizers was nothing new to farmers. Rock phosphates,
bat guano, kelp and all the other things that are sold today as
"organic" fertilizers have been used for centuries. But those were
natural chemicals and natural ecosystems have a way of successfully
coping with the things they make. The new chemicals were man-made
concoctions that were either intensely concentrated natural chemicals
or completely synthetic ones. This was something that natural ecosystems
had a hard time dealing with and a lot of ecological damage was,
and in some parts still is done.
By the 1960s people were beginning to see and understand the ecological
disasters brought on by this "Green Revolution" and began looking
for a better way to grow things. They looked to the past and began
to borrow or adapt farming practices from the pre-synthetic chemical
era. What they found were practices used by indigenous people who
hadn't taken up the plow. They found practices that could produce
high yields of quality food from the same piece of land year after
year without "wearing out" the soil. And they found the teachings
of people like Sir Albert Howard, Jerome Rodale, Lady Eve Balfour,
Ruth Stout, Masanobu Fukuoka, and others.
What started out as a movement away from synthetic chemical agriculture
has become a movement toward something more ecologically beneficial
and sustainable. It has become a movement toward something which
can be generally described as sustainable agriculture.
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
In general, it is a term used to describe the practice of producing
food and fiber from a healthy living plant/soil ecosystem without
the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides of any kind.
In 1985 Andrew Kang Barlett wrote: "Sustainable agriculture cannot
merely be a technical exercise in input substitution and appropriate
technology; sustainable agriculture must be part of a social movement
that spans the entire economic and social relations of society from
credit to the health of the soil, from the seeds and inputs needed
to the producers and their families, from those who distribute the
food and the distance it travels, to the demands and health of the
One of the first definitions of sustainable agriculture adopted in
the US was published by the American Society of Agronomy [1989, pg.
"A sustainable agriculture is one that, over the long term, enhances
environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture
depends; provides for basic human food and fiber needs; is economically
viable; and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society
as a whole."
In 1990 the US Congress passed a farm bill that defined the term
sustainable agriculture as an integrated system of plant and animal
production practices having a site-specific application that over
the long term will:
�h Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
�h Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon
which the agricultural economy depends.
�h Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm
resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles
�h Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
�h Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
By the time the U.S. Congress finally got around to passing that
bill and "officially" defining sustainable agriculture, many farmers
in the U.S. and around the world had already begun to practice methods
that met or exceeded the definition's requirements.
While there is general agreement about the goals and worthiness of
sustainable agriculture, approaches to actually implementing it differ
significantly. Several methods are currently being used to achieve
those goals and more. The following list of methods is not complete
but does contain the most common methods currently being discussed
That's it for now...
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