What is Natural farming and gardening?
First, we must ask what isNature? Nature is everything, nothing that is escapes this category. All of Human Science and invention are merely specks of Natures construct. Nature is you.
What is the common quality of Nature? Life.
So, this most basic understanding is the key to all answers human kind may pose. In terms of growing plants and foods, all errors occur because this most basic of all understanding is discarded. Nature is complete. There is nothing missing.
All things become balanced in an ever changing dynamic relationship. Nothing extra, nothing without.
So, what is natural farming? Why of course it is following the course of Nature! Sounds a bit mysterious and yet it is what our ancestors did for as long as we have farmed. Indeed most of the world still follows this pattern of sustainable living. It is a hoax that we can do without it. It is a hoax that we need life out of balance to feed ourselves. We don’t need to tinker with Nature, we need to flow within it. Does this solve all problems? What problems? Man kind invented problems, as they did not exist before we created them.
Can we as a society really state that we must destroy whole natural systems to solve problems? Of course this makes no sense. We can help to foster them for all of our benefit however, and with just a little help at that…. not doing too much, and not doing too little, humans may actually become a nurturing catalyst, a partner as we always were.
Farming and growing food and medicine is the same on a small scale as it is on a big scale. First of all, “we” don’t grow food, the dynamic life of plants owes us little, but plant life owes much to Fungus and Bacteria. It is the natural cycle that can be enhanced. Nature is a highly interactive self regulating state. It is most accurate to say that we do a little and a lot is done without us. It is only our desire that makes the need for any interference at all. Think about this for one second, did people make the forest? They did not, but we can destroy it very well. Now if we desire avocados in the forest, perhaps we need to take a little action. We need to throw out some seed, or plant a seedling, or graft a variety and plant it. The tree does all the growing, we just eat the fruit!
People will do what they want for many reasons. Modern mechanical farming, organic farming with tilling, korean self contained farming, and natural farming, (no till, no weeding, no composting), all of these are just human methods. In terms of growing food, all of these methods have results. They all do something. The only sustainable type is Nature itself. The more we lean towards anything industrial, the less sustainable the practice. We can rely upon industrial farming,(or any industrial means), for only the shortest time, however modern humans understand it the best. Adding things, inventing problems, and embracing a world view based upon dissection are hallmarks of human thought in the ‘modern’ age.
I am sure this will wrinkle the brow of some who come upon this proposal, but just using data I can support natural farming methods with a modern proof. The most famous modern natural farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka was able to grow more rice per hectare than any other hectare in all of Japan, all without fertilizer and no mechanical means! The argument that this modern way is the only way has been proven false for quite a while now. It is only that society does not emphasize nature and seems unwilling to admit that we are a part of nature and not the central part.
“Creation is like a magnificent orchestra playing the symphony of nature.” – masanobu fukuoka
Mankind did not invent Nature. As a matter of fact, Humans never invented anything, it is all within Nature. Mankind’s only contribution to the world, our only invention is ‘unnatural’. It took us a long time and a lot of fuss, much hard work, but there it is, something actually different. Because we became unnatural, we need to rediscover what is Natural.
At last this article comes upon the part we have all been waiting for….how do you practice natural farming? Well, it is this author’s belief that natural is a pathway and not a prescription or destination, having stated this we can examine Fukuokas’ guides which are:
— human cultivation of soil, plowing or tilling are unnecessary, as is the use of powered machines
— prepared fertilizers are unnecessary, as is the process of preparing compost
— weeding, either by cultivation or by herbicides, is unnecessary. Instead only minimal weed suppression with minimal disturbance
— applications of pesticides or herbicides are unnecessary
— pruning of fruit trees is unnecessary
It is beneficial to re understand these not as rules, but as guides and work towards them, (telling someone not to do too much seldom works out). Instead of looking at these as rules, become an observer of nature. When asked about a farming problem, Fukuoka often would suggest watching the problem for three years and observing the differences. Nature eventually shows us where everything grows best, he would state.
Of course, doing nothing and not doing anything are different. There is a big difference. If you do nothing,(not being involved at all), Nature is fine.
Without saying, a natural farm or garden does not resemble a formal one. Nature seldom looks like a golf course unless there are sheep grazing it, ( this is the origin of golf of course). But a food garden does not need to look formal anyway, as the whole idea is food. As I drive the roads of our Island I see more and more gardens in people’s yards. Inflation and other factors have made the cost of food very high and some of this is the result of it, but of benefit, food grown at home has nutrients that industrial crops do not. Many of these home gardens are messy in appearance, but a closer look reveals many different plants and a lot of food in a small space.
A messy garden is characterized by heavy growth, leaf litter on the ground and intensive use of a small space. Cultures all around the world harbor a garden tradition similar to this. We should all be encouraged that our neighbors are growing food! Hawaii is a treasure. A small yard in Hawaii can grow a lot of food without the use of manufactured chemicals. You will only know it if you grow it.
Happy gardening — Aloha.
Andrew Plack is farming in God’s country on the Hamakua Coast. He studies life and smiles.