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The One-Straw Revolution

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An Introduction to Natural Farming ( New York Review Books Classics )

Masanobu Fukuoka's book about growing food has been changing the lives of readers since it was first published in 1978.

It is a call to arms, a manifesto, and a radical rethinking of the global systems we rely on to feed us all. At the same time, it is the memoir of a man whose spiritual beliefs underpin and inform every aspect of his innovative farming system.

Equal parts farmer and philosopher, Fukuoka is recognized as one of the founding thinkers of the permaculture movement. But when he was twenty-five, he was just another biologist taking advantage of the unprecedented development of postwar Japan. Then a brush with death shattered his complacency. He quit his job and returned to his family farm.

Over the decades that followed, Fukuoka perfected his so-called "do-nothing" technique, a way of farming that dispenses with both modern agribusiness practices and centuries of folk wisdom, replacing them with a system that seeks to work with nature rather than make it over through increasingly elaborate-and often harmful -methods.

Fukuoka developed commonsense, sustainable practices that all but eliminated the use of pesticides, fertilizer, tillage, and the wasteful effort associated with them-and his yields matched those of neighboring factory farms. His farm became a gathering place for people from all over the world who wished to adapt his ways to their own local cultures.

Now, more than thirty years after they were first published, Fukuoka's teachings are more relevant and necessary than ever.

Dimensions: 8" L x 5" W
Details: Paperback, 226 pages
Author: Masanobu Fukuoka

About Masanobu Fukuoka

Masanobu Fukuoka was born in 1914 in a small farming village on the island of Shikoku in Southern Japan. He was educated in microbiology and worked as a soil scientist specializing in plant pathology, but at the age of twenty-five he began to have doubts about the "wonders of modern agriculture science."

While recovering from a severe attack of pneumonia, Fukuoka experienced a moment of satori or personal enlightenment. He had a vision in which something one might call true nature was revealed to him. He saw that all the "accomplishments" of human civilization are meaningless before the totality of nature. He saw that humans had become separated from nature and that our attempts to control or even understand all the complexities of life were not only futile, they were self-destructive. From that moment on, he has spent his life trying to return to the state of being one with nature.

At the time of his revelation, Fukuoka was living in a Japan that was abandoning its traditional farming methods and adopting Western agriculture, economic and industrial models. He saw how this trend was driving the Japanese even further from a oneness with nature, and how destructive and polluting those practices were. As a result, he resigned his job as a research scientist and returned to his father's farm on Shikoku determined to demonstrate the practical value of his vision by restoring the land to a condition that would enable nature's original harmony to prevail.

Through 30 years of refinement he was able to develop a "do-nothing" method of farming. Without soil cultivation such as plowing or tilling, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weeding, pruning, machinery or compost, Fukuoka was able to produce high-quality fruit, vegetables and grains with yields equal to or greater than those of any neighboring farm.

Fukuoka wrote:

"If a single new bud is snipped off a fruit tree with a pair of scissors, that may bring about a disorder which cannot be undone… Human beings with their tampering do something wrong, leave the damage unrepaired, and when the adverse results accumulate, work with all their might to correct them."

"To become one with nature -- agriculture is an occupation in which a farmer adapts himself to nature. To do that, you have to gaze at a rice plant and listen to the words from the plant. If you understand what the rice says, you just adjust your heart to that of the rice plants and raise them. In reality, we do not have to raise them. They will grow. We just serve nature. A piece of advice I need to give you here. When I say gaze at a rice plant or stare at its true form, it does not mean to make an observation or to contemplate the rice plant, which makes it an object different from yourself. It is very difficult to explain in words. In a sense, it is important that you become the rice plant. Just as you, as the subject of gazing, have to disappear. If you do not understand what you should do or what I am talking about, you should be absorbed in taking care of the rice without looking aside. If you could work wholeheartedly without yourself, that is enough. Giving up your ego is the shortest way to unification with nature."

He grew two seasonal crops - rice in summer, barley and rye in winter - using just the straw of the preceding crop, a cover of clover and a sprinkling of poultry manure for fertilizer. Instead of planting seeds and transplanting seedlings as in traditional rice cultivation, he broadcasts clay pellets containing seeds on unplowed soil, sufficiently loosened by nature's own undercover agents, the earthworm and other such creatures.

The use of white clover reduces the amount of time the field is flooded for rice to one week. Weeds are allowed to sprout, controlled by nature's checks and balances, including natural predators, which also take care of pests. "Nature, left alone, is in perfect balance," asserts Fukuoka with a confidence that comes from personal experience. Each rice stalk yields 200 to 300 grains, which compares very favorably with the yield of other forms of cultivation; labor is cut to one-fifth.

He also grew vegetables and fruits for market using similar techniques.

In his 60's, Fukuoka sat down to document what he had seen and done. In 1975 his first book "One Straw Revolution" was released and has had a profound impact on agriculture and human consciousness all over the world. "One Straw Revolution" was followed by "The Natural Way of Farming" and then by "The Road Back To Nature."

Since 1979, Fukuoka has been touring, giving lectures and sowing the seeds of natural farming all over the world. In 1988 he was given Deshikottan Award, and the Ramon Magsaysay Award. In 1997 he received the Earth Council Award.

To Masanobu Fukuoka, raising food is not necessarily the primary goal of farming.

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

To Fukuoka, farming is a spiritual path.

—Lawrence Haftl

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