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2The Natural Way of Farming

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  • SpyderGrl
    Jul 2, 2001
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      Found this on the web:http://csf.colorado.edu/perma/natural_way.txt

      The Natural Way of Farming

      When we create a garden and are mindful of the plants growing in it, we
      ourselves grow from being in closer contact with the same natural cycles
      affecting the plants. The budding flower unfurls its spring banner before
      us, the heavy fruit heralds the end of a growing season and the withered
      stalk whispers of seasons past and yet to come. The synchronicity between
      seasons and plants is a vibrant illustration of the natural patterns which
      affect all life. Recognizing that we too are an expression of these
      patterns is the very heart and soul of farming naturally.

      Natural farming is a simple notion really, it embraces the philosophy of,
      "do as little as possible." It is a realm where Nature is the master
      gardener and human decision making plays a minor role. It acknowledges
      Nature to be the whole from which we were created and the whole which has
      sustained us since that creation. Instead of asking what extra activities
      we can do to "improve" upon Nature, to grow better food, we should be
      asking what don't we need to do. It is as simple as that and as profound
      as a new understanding of self and Nature.

      If someone proved to us that digging, weeding, fertilizing, pest control
      and pruning were not necessary to grow food would we continue to do so? A
      Japanese farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka, has indeed demonstrated to agronomists
      around the world that these activities are not necessary. For over fifty
      years he has achieved surplus yields of rice, barley, plums, citrus fruits
      and vegetables by means of natural farming. Fukuoka is the author of,
      _The One Straw Revolution_, _The Natural Way of Farming_, and _The Road
      Back to Nature_. During the 1970's and 1980's he taught his methods of
      natural farming across the United States, Europe and Africa and is living
      today on his farm in Japan. Throughout his travels and in his writings he
      cautions that the true and persisting cause of desertification and blights
      is man's perceived separation from Nature. This perception has most
      strongly manifested itself in the form of agriculture resulting in the
      steady erosion of biological diversity and soils. The remedy to what ails
      us will not be found through scientific discovery nor a return to
      traditional agriculture, but lies waiting to be discovered within
      ourselves and in our relationship with Nature.

      Fukuoka cannot praise home gardeners enough, which is music any
      permaculturalist's ears. To begin gardening naturally, however, we must
      take a step back and ask what Nature has in mind for the site instead of
      focusing only on what we have in mind. One way to ask what belongs in
      your garden is to cast as many different types of seeds as possible during
      all of the planting windows with no particular aim in sight. Be careful
      to find seeds which canstill open pollinate themselves, otherwise you
      may be buying a seed that will not produce viable off-spring. Now find an
      area in your garden to experiment with that you may be willing to subject
      to some "disorder," any size will do and no special bed preparation is
      necessary.

      Mid spring and summer are as good a time as any to begin natural gardening
      by manually broadcasting seeds just before a thunderstorm. We should
      choose seeds which germinate easily such as cucumbers, melons, and
      squashes, but it is truly a free for all and there are no constraints. It
      is also most helpful to broadcast an equal amount of green manure crops -
      beans and peas in the spring and summer, and clovers, vetches and
      medicagos in the fall. These green manure crops will ensure the fertility
      of your garden and eliminate the need for fertilizers. All of the seeds
      should be mixed up and scattered completely at random. Other seeds to
      begin with are fast growing radishes and turnips which may grow well any
      time of the year. The Japanese daikon radish is well known for being
      extremely deep rooted and serving as a biological aerator and source of
      carbon. During the fall, kale, collard greens, carrots, dill, parsley and
      cilantro may also do well when seeded directly into the garden by hand.
      What we are doing by broadcasting so many seeds is providing materials for
      Nature to pick and choose from, and though it may seem wasteful initially,
      when you find a plant that is well suited for your garden you have
      returned that part of your garden and a part of yourself to Nature.

      I recently noticed in our two and a half acre field kale coming back from
      its roots where we had cast its seed two years ago. It is pleasing to see
      such a nutritious food plant doing well without any attention from us. It
      is also amusing because only a few days before we had spent much time and
      effort germinating and transplanting cabbages from our greenhouse into our
      garden. Two days after the transplanting we had our last hard freeze and
      maybe half of the transplanted cabbages survived. We certainly could have
      prevented the mistake if we had been more patient, but the lesson here is,
      if we can direct seed kale and have it do well completely on its own, then
      why not rely more on kale instead of cabbage for a cool season green? I
      find kale just as delicious as cabbage and have been told that it is
      extremely rich in nutrients as well. This is a good start for a natural
      gardener.

      Another example of natural farming is one of Fukuoka's methods of growing
      rice and barley on his farm in Japan. This method begins in the fall with
      the manual broadcasting of barley, clover and rice sometime between
      October and the New Year. On his two or three acres of rice paddy he does
      not till in preparation for sowing seed as tillage greatly disrupts the
      soil's rich ecosystem. Since the barley and clover are cool season crops
      they will have a chance to germinate and grow as many of the warm season
      plants are dying back. The rice grain is mixed into a clay slurry and
      mashed through a screen to create impregnated clay pellets - preferably
      one grain of rice per pellet. These pellets serve as a capsule which will
      protect the rice grain from rodent and insect predation until the spring.
      By the time the clay has worn off, it is spring and the rice is in the
      field at exactly the time it ought to be.

      As spring waxes and the clover grows thick and dark green, the barley
      begins to mature on the stalk. When the barley is ripe, sometime in late
      May, it is harvested by hand with a sickle. Quite likely the rice has
      already germinated and is trodden-on underfoot somewhat by the harvesters
      but this does not damage it at such a young pliable stage. The residual
      straw from the barley will be haphazardly strewn back over the paddies.
      There has been much concern about insect pests thriving in the straw
      mulch, but without the use of any pesticides at all, Fukuoka's fields are
      heavily populated with spiders which generously help themselves to the
      leaf-hoppers and other insect pests. Most importantly, the straw mulch
      rejuvenates the soil's organic horizon and the clover fixes enough
      nitrogen so that no synthetic fertilizers are needed. Though all human,
      plant and animal wastes are composted, the application of composts and
      manures is not relied upon in natural farming.

      Wetland rice, such as that grown in Fukuoka's municipality in Japan, is
      grown in flooded paddies in order to reduce the competition of other
      plants. This, however, weakens even the rice plant's stalk and exposes it
      to many water loving fungi and viruses. Consequently, wetland rice
      varieties are selected to tolerate these conditions rather than selected
      for their nutritious properties. To avoid the artificially wet and
      stressful conditions of paddies which stay flooded throughout the growing
      season, Fukuoka floods his paddies for only a short duration (after barley
      harvest) while the clover is still very thick and the rice is just getting
      started. This weakens the clover and other weeds but does not slow the
      rice down. When asked what else he does for the weeds, he laughed and
      simply replied, "I don't do anything for the weeds, they do just fine by
      themselves." The rice is harvested after the summer and its straw too is
      returned whole to the land. Thus the cycle is completed and begins anew
      in the fall.

      Fukuoka reveals to us how food plants and all other plants will grow
      naturally and vigorously with little or no human effort. It does not
      matter if we grow rice or vegetables, if we are at home or in Japan, nor
      if we nurture a small garden or an expansive farm. Natural farming goes
      beyond simply casting seeds or picking fruits to acknowledge our union
      with Nature and the very abundance which created us. Fortunately, home
      gardeners are among those most likely to discover the virtue of natural
      farming. This is because they are motivated by the desire to create food,
      not profit, and because they sincerely enjoy toiling in the garden. When
      we no longer distinguish our selves from the garden, our toils and
      discoveries become like light-hearted steps along the road back to Nature.

      Kirby Fry
      Program Coordinator
      Cross Timbers Permaculture Institute
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