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A visit to Mr. Masanobu Fukuoka's Farm

Among the natural farming approaches that I know of, only Mr. Masanobu Fukuoka's approach is based on the philosophy of Buddhism. He emphasized that the philosophy behind farming is the most important thing.

When Mr. Fukuoka was 25 years old, he had an awakening experience. His thoughts therefore concur with Buddhism's dharma. In his books, "The One-Straw Revolution" and "The Natural Way of Farming", Mr. Fukuoka emphasizes that farming should be guided by Buddhist philosophy. He named his natural farming approach as Farming method of the Dharma or the Buddhist farming method.


When Mr. Fukuoka first began practicing his natural farming, he had no example to learn from, no books to refer to. Through strong will and determination, he practiced natural farming, a sustainable farming approach without any contamination throughout the whole process, for 50 years.

His farm produce was of very good quality, but he sold it at a low price. He explained that using his farming approach, the labor input and cost was low, but the yield was good both in quality and quantity, hence he could sell his produce at a low price. His paddy yield was higher than Japanese national average! (Photo: Mr. Fukuoka was checking on the conditions of the farm produce.)




Although Mr. Fukuoka was well-known in Japan and his farming approach had produced good results in terms of quality, quantity and farming cost, not many Japanese followed his methods. His farming philosophy might appear to be difficult to understand, but his methods and practices were actually simple and easy to carry out. Perhaps it was difficult for people to make a paradigm shift from the well established commercial agriculture systems, which focused more on financial benefits. (Photo:The visiting group was gathered under the plum tree)


Among the eight books that Mr. Fukuoka had written, "The One-Straw Revolution" is the most famous one, and has been translated into many languages. There are both simple and traditional Chinese versions circulating in Mainland China and Taiwan respectively. Mr. Fukuoka visited ten or more countries late in his life, meeting many world leaders, caring for environmental issues and current situations of global agriculture, and also promoted his natural farming. Many leaders around the world who care about environment and farming praised highly Mr. Fukuoka's natural farming approach. And for his contribution to this field, he was honored the Deshikottan Award, the highest honor from India; the Roman Magsaysay Award from the Philippines and the Earth Council Award.

Mr. Fukuoka's former secretary and English translator, Ms. Mieko Yajima(矢島三枝子), accompanied us during our visit to Mr. Fukuoka's farm. She said that there are farmers practicing Fukuoka's natural farming methods in Japan, Italy, Austria, France, Greece, South American countries, and India, etc. In Taiwan, many farmers in the natural farming field admire Mr. Fukuoka's way of natural farming, but apparently none had stated that he or she follows his approach closely. (Photo: Ven. Guo Xiang gave a small gift brought from DDM to Mr. Taiki Fukuoka)

In China, Mr. Gu Ke Li (顧克禮)is promoting the Fukuoka method of zero-tillage to sow wheat after rice harvest and has had promising results. This method has been adopted in four provinces: Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Hunan and Hubei.


On 16 August, 2017, when we visited Mr. Fukuoka's orchard, we saw citrus trees growing among wild trees. The orchard retained its primeval character of a wild forest. The soil was kept soft, moist and fertile by a thick layer of leaf litter. Even in the shaded light of the forest, the thick leaves on the trees were healthily shiny, reflecting the vigor and energy of this orchard. The fruits from this orchard must be nutritious, and full of flavors.

We arrived at Mr. Fukuoka's orchard after the harvest season. Although there were no fruits in sight, we were greeted with natural fragrance from all around. Mr. Taiki Fukuoka (福岡大樹), grandson of Mr. Fukuoka, was trying out the Saroyama’s concept and planted other crops in their citrus orchard. Mr. Taiki told us that there were 5 types of wild fruit trees in their orchard. Although humans don't find them appealing, wild animals love these wild fruits. (Photo:The visiting group was gathered in front of the eight-sided pavilion )




In the orchard, there was an old house of about 90 square metre, where Mr. Fukuoka had lived for fifty years. There was also a small house where Mr. Fukuoka used to meet his guests. As the number of guests and visitors grew, he needed a bigger place. He designed an eight-sided pavilion and built it with his friends in front of his house, using wood and ropes only, no metal or nails. The pavilion was elegantly designed, tall and spacious, and could accommodate up to 100 people. In the last thirty years of his life, Mr. Fukuoka received guests from all over the world, and held talks, discussions on natural farming in this pavilion. (Photo: Ven. Guo Xiang presented the flowers to the late Mr. Masanobu Fukuoka)


There was another citrus orchard at the foot of the hill, adopting intensive farming approach. The citrus trees there were planted by Mr. Fukuoka himself fifty years ago. About 30 cm of soil had been washed away naturally over these years; hence some of the tree roots could be noticed above the soil surface. However, the trees seemed to be strong and healthy, showing no signs of diseases or pests. Each citrus tree produced 150 kg of fruits annually.

Mr. Taiki Fukuoka told me that there was an infestation of longhorn beetles twenty years ago, and they had to cut down many citrus trees. We could see the holes made by the beetles in the lower trunks. The orchard owner either used plaster to fill the holes or wrapped the trunks with wire mesh; both seemed to be effective in protecting trees from longhorn beetles. Rice and wheat were also grown in Fukuoka Farm. We saw the rice plants, about 70cm tall, in light green colour, unlike the deep green ones grown with heavy usage of fertilizers. (Photos: Those roots of the left side, produced by Mr. Fukuoka, were in a better codition; whereas those of the right side tended to be rotten.)

Since last year, Mr. Taiki Fukuoka has been converting Mr. Masanobu Fukuoka's old barn into Fukuoka Memorial Hall, serving as a place for the display and sale of their farm products. On that day, we saw items for sale such as orange juice, jam, glutinous rice, wheat flour, onion bulbs and olive oil produced in Italy using Fukuoka's farming method. I noticed that just putting a little of this olive oil in the mouth could alleviate stomatitis and sore throat. It had the taste of wheatgrass and was pretty pungent, very different from the usual olive oil on the market. Perhaps, such a high quality olive oil could ever be produced by Fukuoka’s Natural Farming.

Written by: Ven. Guo Xiang (果祥法師) (Original Published from Dharm Drum Monthly (法鼓雜誌)
Translation: Deng, Hong- Bin (鄧洪斌)
Editor: DDM Editorial Team


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