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10138Re: [fukuoka_farming] natural farming course

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  • Robert Monie
    Oct 30, 2009
      Hi Annemarie,
      In the United States, I have followed attempts to do Fukuoka-style farming for over 20 years. The ideal of a Fukuokan crop tends to evaporate in the American climate where it is attempted. What remains is the specific patch of land and climate that one started with. An example is the well-informed agriculturalist Helen Atthowe of BioDesign Farm in Stevensville, Montana, who recounts the following experience: "I had started in Masanobu Fukuoka's approach to minimum-till/do-nothing kind of farming. Obviously Montana was a bit more of a challenge than Japan. So what we've done here is tried to mimic the natural system in Montana with quite a bit more water."
      So that is what nearly always happens. You start out with visions of sugar plums and fairies and nature chanting music in your ears, and the reality of your local bioclime comes crashing in like a load of garbage cans.  Your locality will dominate what you grow; you will not reproduce Fukuoka's experiment on your soil. You will wind up having to "mimic the natural system" in _______(fill in the place).
       The Romans were right; we cannot escape the "spirit of our place."
      To see how Helen Atthowe adapted her Fukuokan ideals to the spirit of the place where she was planting, go to http://www.extension.org/article/18368 and view her film clips (textual transcriptions are provided.) (Scroll down to SYSTEM 2: LIVING MULCH). Compare her comments on what works in the soil of Montana with the descriptions of expectations and procedures given in Fukuoka's books.    
      She shows what her place demanded of her if it was going to produce anything to eat. She covers  composting (which is really not illegal in the Fukuokan scheme), cover crops, weed ecology, habital for beneficials, soil fertility, nitrogen, and disease suppresion.
      Studying the working of this farm will show the flexibility and freshness of mind necessary when a farmer tries to apply Fukuoka's ideas to a different place. But Atthowe's practices would themselves have to be re-fashioned by someone trying to establish a natural farm in Florida or Mississippi or outside of Paris or Lisbon. The Fukuoka ideal is not a template that can be laid down any place on earth to produce an identical or even similiar farm. It is more of a rubber band that must accomodate the shape of the object(s) around which it is to be wrapped.  Fukuoka farming will look different in different places, because reality for each of us is one or more places, not some "nowhere" land (Utopia= No place). Utopians can never farm, because they literally have "nowhere" to farm. Farmers are the servants of their place, and it is their place that does the growing. Farmers are geo-topians; their topos or place is their plot of earth.
      In the U.S. you can learn something about how different places make natural farmers do different things by watching how Atthowe is working (or not working)  in Montana or what the Shumei are doing in Santa Cruz,  California, or what George Stevens (Synergy Seeds)is doing in Willow Creek, CA. But in the end, the soil in your place will be your school and your teacher.
      What you might really learn from a classroom setting on a natural farm is the names of plants, their shapes, how to start them from seed, how and when to transplant, what healthy plants look like through the seasons, how and when they die, how they root in the soil, when and how to harvest them, and how to save seeds. Getting to know plants is basic and being able to call out their names at sight can be acquired in a reasonable amount of time (kale, chicory, chard, vetiver, yacon, Persian clover, fenugreek, orchard grass, switchgrass, rye, barley, bok choy, buckwheat etc).  Getting to know "La Place" (the Place) is a lifetime experience--almost an "in sickness or health" marriage bond.

      Good luck,
      Bob Monie
      New Orleans, LA 70119
      Zone 8
      --- On Wed, 10/28/09, annemariewan <annemariewan@...> wrote:

      From: annemariewan <annemariewan@...>
      Subject: [fukuoka_farming] natural farming course
      To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 11:52 PM



      There was recently a post on the school of natural farming in Korea called Janonglove. Does anybody know an English or French equivalent natural farming school?

      Thank you


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