Zen and the Art of Natural Farming

March 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm (books, Gardening, permaculture) (, , , )

If you, like me, feel that Mankind could use a major kick in the pants, spiritually speaking, then Masanobu Fukuoka’s book, The One-Straw Revolution, is a must-read!  Don’t be fooled by how light-hearted this little page-turner is; it is packed full of wisdom that will appeal to anyone interested in exploring permaculture’s philosophical side.

You could call it “Zen and the Art of Natural Farming.”  Natural and “do-nothing” are the terms Fukuoka chooses to describe his approach to farming.  He does not mean, of course, that one can grow food by doing absolutely nothing, but that one should avoid doing nothing which is unnecessary.  In many places throughout The One-Straw Revolution, Fukuoka-san draws on the Taoist principle of Wu Wei–actionless action–which is a state of being in which acting becomes quite effortless because it is aligned with the ebb and flow of natural cycles:

[N]atural farming arises of itself when a unity exists between man and nature.  It conforms to nature as it is, and to the mind as it is.  It proceeds from the conviction that if the individual temporarily abandons human will and so allows himself to be guided by nature, nature responds by providing everything.

More such nuggets of wisdom, less esoteric and all the more poignant for guiding humanity:

Extravagance of desire is the fundamental cause which has led the world into its present predicament.  Fast rather than slow, more rather than less–this flashy “development” is linked directly to society’s impending collapse.  It has only served to separate man from nature. […]  The more the farmer increases the scale of his operation, the more his body and spirit are dissipated and the further he falls away from a spiritually satisfying life.

To be worried about making money, expanding, developing, growing cash crops and shipping them out is not the way of the farmer.  To be here, caring for a small field, in full possession of the freedom and plentitude of each day, every day–this must have been the original way of agriculture.

Perhaps my favorite line in the whole book:

A natural diet lies right at one’s feet.

Can you think of a better slogan to sum up the whole local food movement?

This book is packed full of such gems.  I’m not even done with it, but I’m enjoying it so much I wanted to put it out there that I highly recommend it.  It’s not your average gardening book with instructions for growing this vegetable and that fruit and when and where to plant things.  I have seen this book referenced in so many others that I’m surprised it took me so long to get around to reading it myself, but I’m glad I finally did!


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