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Re: [fukuoka_farming] Re: Wei-Wu-Wei.....and an FYI

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  • Robert Monie
    Hi Gloria and All, Regarding the gift book list, I would recommend the other 2 Fukuoka books that have been translated into English and are now available at
    Message 1 of 55 , Nov 9, 2003
      Hi Gloria and All,

      Regarding the gift book list, I would recommend the other 2 Fukuoka books that have been translated into English and are now available at moderate prices in the "Indian" editions. For the practical-minded who just want to see something grow (a noble goal in itself), the two Rodale books by Patrice Lanza on mulch layering (sheet mulching) would be helpful: "Lasagna Gardening" and "Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces," both readily available from amazon.com and other mass retailers. Lanza has another book on the way called "Lasagna Gardening for Herbs," due out in 2004.

      A bit more philosophical and involved is Toby Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Homescale Permaculture." Hemenway's preference for sheet mulching over composting and his attention to "plant guilds," both natural and human-made, alone make his book worth reading. His attempt to present a book on how to relocate permaculture from its Australian birthplace to American soil remains, so far as I know, unequalled. Certainly others should follow where he left off.

      For the still more scientifically and academically inclined, there is the new (and expensive) 820-page textbook, "Natural Agriculture" by biochemist and college professor Raymond Poincelot. (2003, Prentice-Hall). Poincelot adopts a severely critical "show me--let me measure it" attitude to all claims for sustainable agriculture. He wants thrifty use of water, renewal of topsoil, minimum use of fertilizer and pesticide, but insists at the same time on high yields. For Poincelot, the purpose of farming is not to grow people with good character (as it is in Fukuoka's famous dictum) but to grow food. No food, no farming, says Poincelot. I am working my way through the book and will provide a comprehensive review of it for this group at least by January.

      I still like the quiet, unassuming little book by Lee Reich, "Weedless Gardening" as an informed, conventional scientist/gardener's attempt to use some of the no-till and mulch approaches inspired by Fukuoka. Reich's method of putting down a layer of paper and manuring over it with soybean meal to start a new garden has worked like a charm for me--much better than the old days of "double digging" and raised bed organic growing. Granted, Reich only goes part of the way towards Fukuoka, but part is better than none, and Reich's book (along with the Lazana books) is useful for beginners.

      We should be grateful that two major principles suggested by Fukuoka--no-till and deep mulching with cover crops--have been adopted by several commercial farms in the US
      with considerable success. Steve Groff's Ceder Meadows Farm is an example, and I recommend Steve's Video "No-Till Vegetables: A Sustainable Way to Increase Profits, Save Our Soil, and Reduce Pesticides" for any holiday gift list. See Steve's website:
      http://www.cedarmeadowsfarm.com/video.html .

      My present evaluation of Fukuoka Farming is that it remains an ideal that has piqued the attention of many but in practice has largely remained unattainable. Meditation in the garden, back yard, forest and meadow is a noble practice exemplified in the works, for example, of William Wordsworth, Andrew Marvell and Henry Thoreau. All three would agree that contemplating Nature can make one a better person, but none of the three would confuse such contemplation with farming. Farming must be not contemplation but growing enough to feed people; what else could it be? An electrical engineer who honestly reported personal moral improvement and philosophical enlightenment from contemplating the wonders of electricity would not be counted much of an engineer if he (she) could not get the signals to transmit. Similarly, farmers who cannot grow things are not farmers; they are mystics, philosophers, writers, poets, or something else.

      The lessons learned from mysticism, philosophy, literature, poetry, religion and other modes of awareness and being might be applicable to farming or they might not be. For them to be useful, they have to translate into something that cuts across individual perception. If my mystical neighbor tells me that certain grow for him because Nature has singled him out for secret revelations, that doesn't add up to much for me, if I don't hear Nature talking the way he (she) does.

      To me, the essence of civilization is shared ideas, shared approachs, techniques, understanding, and expectation--something similar to what experiemental science calls "Repeatability." My Polaris solar light works for me just as well as neighbor Jones' works for him. It doesn't require any mumbo jumbo to make it turn the photons into electricity, store the energy in the nickle-hydride batteries, and pump them out on demand to the florescent lamp and make it glow. The device is wonderfully "repeatable." It will do its thing submerged in a well, locked in a cave or coal mine, by the swimming pool in the backyard, or on the top of the highest, snow-covered peak.

      Judged by this standard of "repeatability," the Fukuoka farming model doesn't seem to work. Fukuoka has travelled the world, yet it is hard to find a true "Fukuoka Farm" anywhere that is flourishing. The farms that are flourishing might better be called "Fusion" farms in the same sense that restaurants that combine different culinary styles (for example Japanese and Italian or Vietnamese and French) are called "fusion" restaurants that produce "fusion" cusine. I emphatically do not mean to conjure up the New Arge fraud of "cold fusion" or anything like it here. Fusion is synomymous with "intelligent, successful BLENDing of elements from different cultures, places, and times to meet the needs of other cultures, places, and times."

      I have been trying out some such blends or fusions which are heretical from the point of view of their sources and origins but might be more "reproducible" than following Fukuoka's advice directly. Everyone probably has to do this if they hope to approach the ideal of good yields and sustainability. An example: it is possible to combine some techniques of aeroponics with no-till sheet mulching. I have started little plots of such garden near New Orleans, San Jose (CA) and Berkeley (CA) with good success. I begin with layers of soybean meal, kudzu meal, and rice hulls. I plant seeds, plugs or larger nursery plants along with cover crops (white clover, soy, buckwheat, rye) and use very small amounts of aeroponics products (ODC and Beyond) to inhibit fungal infections and provide low-level availbality of at least 15 plant nutrients. The yields from such an approach are good and have been nearly identical in all three locations. Microbial activity and worm activity in the soil are
      good. Is this chemical farming, organic farming, natural farming, or what?

      As a aside, I notice that the Amish supply company, Lehman's (One Lehman Circle, P.O. Box 41, Kidron, Ohio 44636) is carrying the Polaris Solar Lantern (for only $89.95--at least $30 less than Real Goods sells it for). The Amish used to be considered "anti-electric" and anti-technology but now they are entering a possible age of Amish Fusion. The Lehman catalog (page 37), in advertising the fascinating Staber washing machine
      (which can run on a 12 volt battery) that "here at Lehman's we aren't really anti-technology. We are all about self-sufficency and caring for our environment."

      Will the Amish become leaders in the coming solar energy/hydrogen economy? Will they begin to rely less on horse manure and more on some fusion method of farming?

      Let's stay turned and see.

      Best wishes to Larry on his move to Abe Lincoln's state!

      Bob Monie- south Lousiana

      "Gloria C. Baikauskas" <gcb49@...> wrote:
      Jamie.....I don't know if the Old Guard has moved off.....or is just
      busy with other things at the moment. I have noticed that all of my
      list groups are a bit slow in the last few weeks. I am not certain

      I have started a thread in a new feature on GardeningOrganically that
      I call Garden Talk on the various gardening/farming methodology. The
      first one offered is on Fukuoka......Natural Farming/Gardening.
      Because we are using Larry's website for the key information for this
      thread we are going to turn to Emilia's Synergistic Gardening next.
      I mention this because it may be one....or more.....never know in
      these things.....may turn up here. I am hoping to at least challenge
      the members there to look into more than just converting their,
      perhaps, formerly chemical gardens to just using organic amendments
      without changing the way they garden. We will also include
      Permaculture in this thread before we are done.

      I have found new members a bit hungry for information on at least
      Permaculture when they join. Permaculture has a better Public
      Relations agent I guess.

      I am going to also do a recommended reading list at some point in
      this thread. Does anyone have a list of books....or even just one
      book that they would recommend beyond, "One Straw Revolution," for
      these folks to put on their gift lists? I have had a few ask for
      suggested books.....including a request for a book on how weeds
      benefit the soil/garden. I sent them to Journeytoforever for the
      online book there on that subject because I couldn't remember the
      name and author of the book I have continually put off buying.

      Emilia used to help me a bit....and Larry, too....in trying to bring
      information to this group of people. That was before I became its
      owner a few months ago. When my computer crashed last year I lost
      most of the personal notes Emilia sent to me....which is really sad
      because they were full of so much information....besides the personal

      Napi.....when you see these threads hit the group.....will you please
      offer your experiences with them? I can use all the help I can get.


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    • michael
      Wordy! How many cups of caffeine do you fellows drink before you write this? Fukuoka s method was never intended for commercial agriculture, in the American
      Message 55 of 55 , Nov 18, 2003
        Wordy! How many cups of caffeine do you fellows drink before you write

        Fukuoka's 'method' was never intended for commercial agriculture, in
        the American use of the phrase.

        On Tuesday, November 18, 2003, at 04:56 AM, Larry Haftl wrote:

        > Hi Jamie,
        >> Hello Larry, I'm not quite sure how to respond to this email, a
        >> point-by-point rebuttal, silence or something else entirely. My
        >> problem is
        >> that I don't actually know what it is you're arguing against.
        > I didn't think I was arguing against anything in particular, so I went
        > back
        > and re-read several of the threads and I think I figured out what I
        > said
        > that is probably bothering you. It is my comments about Fukuoka
        > apparently
        > not being able to sustain the rice/barley yields he wrote about in his
        > books. If that is true then it can cast serious doubt on the
        > possibility of
        > using his method to develop commercially successful farms. Since you
        > are
        > personally heavily invested in trying to demonstrate that Fukuoka's
        > method
        > can be successful enough to replace current commercial agricultural
        > methods,
        > it is understandable that you find expressing such doubts in this forum
        > troublesome. Sorry about that, but all humans have doubts from time to
        > time,
        > even those who have never been formally exposed to Descartes,
        > Anglo-Saxon
        > culture, or Pragmatism. Doubt is something that happens to thinking
        > human
        > beings when, for instance, someone tells them something is going to
        > happen
        > and it doesn't happen time after time after time.
        >> the criteria of proof proved?). But it is this worldview that Fukuoka
        >> has
        >> always opposed as seeing such 'contrariness' as reducing the reality
        >> of
        > the
        >> world so as to gain control over it and our current ecological
        >> destruction
        >> the result of this reduction. Natural Agriculture is Fukuoka's
        >> expression
        > of
        >> acceptance, of not doubting the natural world - of seeing doubt not
        >> as the
        >> achievement of humankind but its weakness, even downfall. Every page
        >> of
        >> Fukuoka's 3 main books are steeped in this openness to experience, his
        >> 'green philosophy' has been gained not by shutting himself away for 3
        >> days
        >> to see what he could be sure of through deductive thinking as
        >> Descartes
        > did,
        >> but 40 years work in the fields slowly letting scientific and
        >> enculturated
        >> techniques go.
        > Fukuoka urged people to put doubts aside and try his method in order
        > to get
        > direct, first-hand experience with the power and abilities of natural
        > processes. I was and still am totally in favor of that. Openness to new
        > experiences is, to me, a very good thing. And so is not dismissing
        > something
        > because it failed to have desired results the first time I tried it.
        > Try to
        > figure out why it failed, make some adjustments, and try again. Sorry
        > if
        > this sounds like the scientific method at work, but it is, after all,
        > what
        > Fukuoka used himself and promotes.
        >> Why is it 'critical' that you question Jean-Claude's conception that
        >> 2%
        > only
        >> of farmers is 'madness' when this is exactly Fukuoka's viewpoint
        >> expressed
        >> throughout his work to get people to return to the land so that they
        >> can
        >> rebuild the relationships to the natural world he feels we have lost
        >> in
        > the
        >> technicity of scientific enquiry? My point is that we know that this
        >> is
        > how
        >> Fukuoka feels and that is why we're part of this group. What I really
        > don't
        >> understand is why you continue to be part of this group if you
        >> disagree
        > with
        >> such basic aspects of Fukuoka's ideas?
        > I didn't know that it was mandatory to absolutely, totally, and
        > unthinkingly
        > accept and believe in everything Fukuoka ever said or wrote in order to
        > participate in this group. The list's description said something about
        > discussing his ideas, not mindlessly repeating what he wrote or said. I
        > asked Jean-Claude why he thought it insane that only 2% of the
        > population
        > chose to be farmers because I wanted to hear his reasoning. Like
        > Fukuoka, I
        > think it would be nice if more people raised their own food, and even
        > nicer
        > if I could do so myself. But even if I disagreed with Fukuoka about
        > that, I
        > don't see such a disagreement as grounds for banishing from this forum
        > me or
        > anyone else. Do you? Are you saying that anyone who questions anything
        > Fukuoka has written or said should not be allowed to express his or her
        > thoughts, opinions, and experiences about what Fukuoka has written.
        >> Or, to try again: Why are you a member of the Fukuoka_Farming email
        >> discussion group? I used to know, last year when you built the
        >> website,
        > when
        >> we corresponded voluminously off-list, as you also did with Emilia,
        >> expressing your enthusiasm, your very real belief that Fukuoka
        >> expressed
        >> something tangible for your life, I could understand. But now you are
        >> 'contrary', deliberately so. I don't understand.
        > I am a member of this group because I get useful information from it. I
        > still have a lot of enthusiasm for what Fukuoka has written and said,
        > still
        > try to implement his methods as much as possible, and still enjoy
        > maintaining the website as a tool to help others find, understand, and
        > perhaps expand on what Fukuoka is all about. What I think you are
        > having a
        > hard time understanding or accepting is my doubts that Fukuoka's
        > methods can
        > be used exclusively in a commercial operation of any significant size
        > (arbitrarily more than several acres per person) with success. I think
        > there
        > is wisdom in his writings, but they are not, for me, absolute gospel
        > that I
        > have to absolutely and unquestioningly accept or be excommunicated
        > from the
        > group. If you are some day able to make a commercially successful go
        > of your
        > farm using only his methods they I will definitely sing your praises
        > and
        > rejoice with you. Doubting the effectiveness of his methods in
        > commercial
        > applications is not a deterrent to me as my goals are much more modest
        > than
        > yours. I simply want to understand how and why things grow and enjoy
        > the
        > learning process. And if I can get some goodies to eat along the way
        > then so
        > much the better. And who knows, maybe one day I'll be back on enough
        > land
        > that I can use his methods to completely feed myself, my family and
        > maybe a
        > few others and not have to rely on that dreaded scientific agriculture
        > for
        > actual survival as most of us now do.
        >> Fukuoka's message is that of Buddhism, Christian mystics and (Islamic)
        >> Sufism, humankind cannot know the natural world in totality,
        >> therefore we
        >> must stop trying to improve the world through the valorisation of our
        >> intellect, our ability to question and create laws by which we
        >> organise
        > the
        >> world, but rather, settle back and let ourselves slowly regain the
        >> rhythms
        >> of life that we have lost. We go nowhere, literally, with
        >> 'contrariness'
        > but
        >> with natural agriculture Fukuoka has offered a practical release from
        >> the
        >> ever decreasing circles of doubt.
        > It's much easier to "settle back and let ourselves slowly regain the
        > rhythms
        > of life that we have lost" if we have the land and/or resources to
        > feed,
        > clothe and house ourselves in a manner we find acceptable. You, me,
        > and many
        > of the people on this list (and even Fukuoka for that matter) can be
        > dilitante natural farmers and gardeners because we have a support
        > system
        > that will feed, clothe, and house us even if we are totally inept at
        > raising
        > food. We can follow his writings and personally benefit from them
        > regardless
        > of how much food we personally grow, and that process can, I believe,
        > open
        > us up to the natural world around us more effectively than many other
        > activities. To me, that's enough to be worth trying.
        >> What I have been trying to situate
        >> in this email, because I'm not quite sure how else to express it, is
        >> that
        >> you are not just wondering which of the crossroads to take but have
        >> turned
        >> around and retraced your footsteps and left that path altogther.
        > Hmmm.... still feels like I'm on the same path I was on when I first
        > encountered this list. Moved along it a bit, but still seems like the
        > same
        > path. Perhaps you are on a different one that doesn't give you a very
        > clear
        > view of the one I am on.
        >> Sometimes in our lives we can feel that what we do amounts to
        >> nothing, we learn our own helplessness. Sometimes there is a spark
        >> that
        >> lights a new enthusiasm. I'm part of this group because I want to be
        >> part
        > of
        >> a movement that produces a practical, temperate natural agriculture
        >> that
        >> will one day counter the current scientific agriculture of the West.
        > It appears that we are on different paths. I'm just trying to
        > understand how
        > and why things grow, trying to be in closer conscious contact with the
        > natural world around me. And maybe learn how to grow or gather as much
        > as I
        > eat. It's true I have doubts about Fukuoka's method being effective
        > enough
        > to permanently replace "current scientific agriculture" (a very
        > desireable
        > thing), but telling me it's wrong to express those doubts is pretty
        > much a
        > waste of time and bandwidth. Showing me that my doubts are unfounded by
        > turning Souscayrouse into a successful commercial venture would,
        > however,
        > definitely shut me up. And I'd be glad to help you in whatever way I
        > can to
        > do so. I think your grand goal is admirable. But then I think so is my
        > very
        > modest one.
        > Larry Haftl
        > larry@...
        > http://LarryHaftl.com
        > http://FukuokaFarmingOL.net
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