Restoring Paradise on Earth

The Natural Way of Farming


Vegetables in full bloom beneath a peach tree


The Natural Way of Farming
Masanobu Fukuoka

"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,
but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."

* Imagine raising crops with no cultivation, no chemical fertilizers or herbicides, not even any added compost! Fukuoka has learned not to ask the impossible of nature, and is blessed with impossible high yields. Instead of continually attempting to do a little bit more, he has looked for ways to do less, to leave off unnecessary labors, and yet his soil grows richer every year. He offers us a provocative image of stewardship to the earth as the cornerstone to a society of sufficiency, permanence, and self-renewal.

* Masanobu is a rare individual to have devoted over 50 years to farming as a spiritual path. Even rarer in this age of fragmented specialization is his grasp on the interrelatedness of all aspects of human society and nature. Acclaimed as a modern-day "Lao Tzu" by fellow Japanese for his paradoxical wisdom.

Born in a small farming village on the island of Shikoku in Southern Japan in 1914, Masanobu Fukuoka was trained in microbiology as a plant pathologist. His command of this newly introduced Western science soon won him what promised to be a steady, if uneventful career as an agriculture customs inspector running tests on incoming and outgoing plants at the port of Yokohama. Then suddenly, at only twenty-five, doubts set in. He started to question everything he had learned about the "wonders of modern agriculture science," and in a dawning of vision he came to see that all the "accomplishments" of human civilization are meaningless before the totality of nature. From that moment on, his life has been dedicated to fulfilling the promise of that vision; bringing it into ever greater, more immediate focus.

Since the publication of his best-selling introductory work, One-Straw Revolution, he has accepted invitations to visit the United States in 1978, Europe in 1981, and Africa in 1985, where he lectured and made a tour of organic farms, but he prefers to stay close by his fields.

Natural farming is based on a nature free of human meddling and intervention.

The five major principles:

* No tillage
* No fertilizer
* No pesticides
* No weeding
* No pruning

It strives to restore nature from the destruction wrought by human knowledge and action, and to resurrect a humanity divorced from God.

The trees and grasses release seeds that fall to the ground, there to germinate and grow into new plants. The seeds sown by nature are not so weak as to grow only in plowed fields. Plants have always grown by direct seeding, without tillage. The soil in the fields is worked by small animals and roots, and enriched by green manure plants.

Only over the last 60 years or so have chemical fertilizers became thought of as indispensable. True, the ancient practice of using manure and compost does help speed growth, but this also depletes the land from which the organic material in the compost is taken.

Even organic farming, which everyone is making such a big fuss over lately, is just another type of scientific farming. A lot of trouble is taken to move organic material first here then there, to process and treat. But any gains to be had from all this activity are local and temporal gains. In fact, when examined from a broader perspective, many such efforts to protect the natural ecology are actually destructive.

Although a thousand diseases attack plants in the fields and in the forest, nature strikes a balance; there was never any need for pesticides. Man grew confused when he identified these diseases as insect damage; he created with his own hands the need for labor and toil.


In 5 to 20 years, natural farming turns hills of red clay into rich,
fertile land. Daikon and Indian mustard are in full bloom below
peach trees growing about a 6 year old Morishima acacia.


Man tries also to control weeds , but nature does not arbitrarily call one grass a weed and try to eradicate it. Nor does a fruit tree always grow more vigorously and bear more fruit when pruned.
A tree grows best in its natural habit; the breaches do not tangle; sunlight falls on every leaf, and the tree bears fruit each year, not only in alternative years.

Many people are worried today over the drying out of arable lands and the loss of vegetation throughout the world, but there is no doubting that human civilization and the misguided methods of crop cultivation that arose from man's arrogance are largely responsible for this global plight.

Once we accept that nature has been harmed by human knowledge and action, and renounce these instruments of chaos and destruction, nature will recover its ability to nurture all forms of life.

Rain does not originate from the heavens; it issues issues forth from the ground. Deserts do not form because there is no rain; rather, rain ceases to fall because the vegetation has disappeared. Building a dam in the desert is an attempt to treat the symptoms of the disease, but is not a strategy for increasing rainfall. First we have to learn how to restore the ancient forest.

But we have no do not have time to launch a scientific study to determine why the deserts are spreading in the first place. Even were we to try, we would find that no matter how far back into the past we go in search of causes, these causes are preceded by other causes in an endless chain of interwoven events and factors that is beyond man's power of comprehension.

Suppose that man were able in this way to learn which plant had been the first to die off in a land turned to desert. He would still not know enough to decide whether to begin by planting the first type of vegetation to disappear or the last to survive. The reason is simple: in nature, there is no cause and effect.

Science rarely looks to microorganism for an understanding of large causal relationship. True, the perishing of vegetation may have triggered a drought, but the plants may have died as a result of the action of some microorganism. However, botanists are not to be bothered with microorganism as these lie outside of their field of interest. We've gathered together such a diverse collection of specialists that we've lost sight of both the starting and the finish line. The only effective approach we can take to revegetating barren land is to leave things largely up to nature.


A natural farm is at once a forest, an orchard, an a vegetable garden,
Cherry, peach, plum, wax myrtle, acacia, and green manure plants bloom together.

One gram of soil on my farm contains about 100 million nitrogen-fixing bacteria and other soil-enriching microbes. I feel that soil enclosing seeds and these microorganism could be the spark that restores the deserts.

I have created, together with the insects in my fields, a new strain of rice I call "Happy Hill."
This is a hardy strain with the blood of wild variants in it, yet it is also one of the highest yielding strains of rice in the world. If a single head of Happy Hill were sent across the sea to countries where food is scarce and there sawn over a ten-square-yard area, a single grain would yield 5,000 grains in one year's time. There would be grain enough to sow a half-acre the following year, fifty acres two years hence, and 7,000 acres in the fourth year.

This could become the seed for an entire nation. This handful of grain could open up the road to independence for a starving people. But this seed must be delivered as soon as possible.
Even one person can begin. I could be no happier than if my humble experience with natural farming were to be used toward this end.

Although perhaps just the empty dream of a farmer who has sought in vain to return to nature and the side of God, I wish to become the sower of the seed.
Nothing would give me more joy than to meet others of the same mind.

Masanobu Fukuoka.
Japan (1985)


For every seed the Earth receives, it returns thousands
Nature operates according the principles of "one grain, ten thousand grains"
For every seed, the Earth receives, it returns thousands.
Nature is forever productive, and infinitely diverse. In the practice of genetic engineering,
ten thousand seeds are sacrificed for every one that comes to market,
or "from ten-thousand grains, come one grain."
Originally, the heirloom seeds that sustained humanity over the centuries cost nothing;
they were given freely by nature.
Each genetically engineered seed cost $ 300 million to bring to market.
We now face a choice between two opposite views of life, one natural, the other artificial.
The earth and happiness of all species, could well depend upon which of these two path we choose.

(Source: 10.000 grains, one grain Genetically Modified (GM) Rice in the Sacramento Valley by E- Esko.)


Go for an Interview with Masanobu about Greening the Desert
Masanobu Fukuoka Applying natural farming techniques in Africa
by Robert and Diane Gilman




Back to Eye on the World Report

Back to the Logbook of our "Celestial Voyageur"