RE: [fukuoka_farming] an opinion
- Thank you Martin for returning this slow dialogue to the work of Fukuoka. I
find it necessary to read and re-read the books (One Straw Revolution and
The Natural Way of Farming) to draw me out of the western scientific
Weltanschauung. Sometimes it is only hours after having put down the book,
assured that this time I have properly appreciated the significance of
Fukuoka's revelation of Natural Farming, that I find myself again wanting to
add bits and pieces collected from disparate sources either via the internet
or in other books. The following quote from One Straw Revolution
crystallises the situation;
There are always those who try to mix natural and scientific farming. But
this way of thinking completely misses the point. The farmer that moves
toward compromise can no longer criticise science at the fundamental level.
Natural farming is gentle and easy and indicates a return to the source of
farming. A single step away from the source can only lead one astray.
P24 Other India Press Edition
What is Natural Farming? I'm not sure I know. But I want to try and
understand. That means a sustained attempt at breaking the limits to my
perceptions learnt growing up in the West.
It also means listening to other perceptions and interpretations. Martin not
only recalls the actual words of Fukuoka but goes on to outline the
developments he is making in his own situation, something that is manifestly
necessary considering that Fukuoka is not only a Japanese farmer but is
addressing himself to a Japanese farming audience.
In English we have an expression about not picking up the fag ends of other
peoples conversations - meaning be careful not to interpret a chance remark
or the end of someone else's conversation, without knowing the intent of the
speaker or the participants: reading the books of Fukuoka I sometimes feel
that I am overhearing a distant conversation, and too often I feel that I am
missing the full significance. However, I believe his words to be of
uncommon importance and worth the effort to comprehend as fully as possible.
Souscayrous - wondering whether to clear the old fields of all, some or none
of their vegetation, to spread seedballs, Martin's little piles of soil
containg the seeds...etc, to intend to irrigate, or not, to plant fruit tree
seedlings or scatter their seeds, which cover crop, which nitrogen fixing
trees, which shelterbelt trees ...etc etc etc...From a cold and wind blasted
South of France.
From: martinremmel@... [mailto:martinremmel@...]
Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2001 5:40 AM
Subject: [fukuoka_farming] an opinion
Shortly after his wife died M. Fukuoka traveled to China and had talks
with the ministry of forestry trying to convince them to try his
method on a big scale there. After three weeks he returned to Japan
without a definite Yes or No.
M. Fukuoka has self-published his last book in English, if I'm not
wrong. I have a copy of the text-version. Panaiotis Manikis has
translated it to greek and self-published the color-version in Greece
(Address on Greenbelt-Homepage, preferably write to him). He has
organized big-scale seedings in deserts in Greece during the last 8
years in private initiative. The last two years were very successful.
He now has buildings to receive people all year and prepare pellets.
After a recent TV show there was a strong resonance, many people
wanting to start gardens and farms.
Panaiotis told me 'there are seeds missing in the soil. All you have
to do is sow seeds'. 'All I can teach you is how to make good
It's easy to mix up M. Fukuoka's strategy with organic farming,
permaculture etc. for the following reasons:
M. Fukuoka himself was searching for an approach to put his ideas into
practice. He had start somehow, so for many years he must have been
using organic methods. What you read in his old books is organic
farming methods. Now it's only sowing everything together.
B. Mollison has based a lot of his system on M. Fukuoka's ideas,
Thinking he can outsmart nature. M. Fukuoka had even drawn designs for
S. Holzer does not seem to distinguish between B. Mollison's and M.
Fukuoka's approaches. He recommends both (I was on his farm for a
week.) I agree with the methodological criticism posted on this forum.
and he doesn't doubt economy fundamentally. He's basically a landscape
designer, but he hasn't created an edible forest.
In the end it's not important, there's no need to deconstruct him.
This is a forum on natural farming, desert revegetation, M. Fukuoka's
interpretation of nature.
Permaculture is not Natural Farming. Permaculture is science. Natural
Farming denies science. You don't plan.
DON'T MIX UP M. FUKUOKA'S IDEAS WITH YOUR OWN OR OTHER PEOPLE's.
Maybe the term fertility should be abandoned because calling a soil
'fertile' implies, it has a certain property or an amount of
This is misleading. I think, there is no such thing as fertility. It's
a word we invented. Have you ever seen fertility? I have not.
We can only see plants, funghi, animals, microorganisms (even this is
subjective). And we have de-concentrated them. So we have to
concentrate them and hand over control to nature to the biggest degree
The clayball is only one tool for this. And clay is only one possible
material. You can also make tiny heaps of soil mixed with seeds.
Fukuoka is mainly using annuals for the ground cover.
Instead of white clover he suggests berseem/egypt clover (Trifolium
alexandrinum) mixed with alfalfa in small amounts and vegetables and
grains and fruit trees and green manure trees and shade trees. You
Methods can be different depending on whether you start in a place
with almost no plant cover or with a diverse vegetation. So you can
try using the living vegetation as a protective cover, for collecting
dew, creating shade.
YOU have to find out:
- if it is possible just to sow units of mixtures of organisms and cut
the existing vegetation or better to just expose the soil only in the
points or lines where you sow.
- if when leaving the cover of living plants, it is sensible to
selectively cut or pull out certain perennial plants or certain vining
- which plants can germinate in and grow right through an existing
plant cover if sown directly without being encapsulated in clay etc.
- which plants can be weakened how, e. g. instead of cutting rather
folding or trampling gras.
- which plants when sown into an existing vegetation, which is then
suppressed mechanically for a period of time manages to penetrate this
- what may hinder germination of the seeds you have sown by thorough,
Start now on a 1-square-meter-field. If you have
In "The revolution of God, Man an Nature" sums up his experiences. The
chapter about creating a farm is only a few pages. It's enough.
You have to mix everything and trust that the clover, alfalfa and
green manure plant are the driving force for the evolution of the
- when making fields dedicated to growing a certain crop, mix the
crops with buckwheat in first summer, rape and mustard in first
winter, adzuki and cowpea in second summer, hairy vetch in second
winter. For suppressing weeds and bringing the soil to maturity.
- mix crops with berseem and alfalfa.
my experiment now is to combine all his methods derived from his
observations and my experiments, trying to create the best possible
germination conditions and being minimally invasive.
I have started on a farm on La Palma, 28 degrees latitude.
In a place where there is a 20cm-high plant cover now, much annual
grass, I want to add seeds, so I'll have trees and vegetables. I won't
cut the existing plants, because here the soil dries out very fast.
Certain plants I remove (subjective).
I will part the plant cover with a stick creating parallel lines of
exposed soil/natural mulch layer every foot. I orient the lines so the
grasses will throw a shade on the line. Parts of the line may have to
be cleared from plants, mulch etc.
Between the lines I'll bundle the plants with my hands and form a sort
of low hedge.
I place little heaps of the soil-seed-mixture on the lines every foot,
so I'll end up with about 10 per square meter. Between the heaps I sow
berseem. The soil-seed-mixture can be moistened, preferably with
rainwater, before or after sowing. Making a customized spout for a
watering can is helpful then. When plants will have germinated I will
sow Buckwheat into the hedge and neatly bundle und flatten it so the
blades of the grass converge. I will either weigh down the grass with
split palm leaves, which have the proper width, or repeat trampling
the plants for a few days. Wooden boards can be an aid. Maybe even
tied to my feet.
It sounds laborious, but it is actually quite fast.
I have seen that Oxalis cannot be weakened this way immediately.
If the Buckwheat doesn't manage to penetrate I will sow vetch.
If the green manure plants seem to cover up the crops in the spots in
a problematic way I can bundle or push them down a bit.
If all fails I have not dried out the soil or destroyed the plant
cover and can start over.
Martin Remmel, Fi
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