The Natural Way of Farming
by Kirby Fry

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

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

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

The Nazarenes of  Mount Carmel
Copyright © 1999-2006. All rights reserved.

The Essene Numerology Chart | Ministerial Training Course