by Masanobu Fukuoka
In this relatively short book, Fukuoka describes how he came into natural farming and how his simple principles of working the land reflect his philosophy of casting aside human will and ego. By cooperating with the natural patterns of nature, he has found a way to produce an abundance of rice, winter grains, citrus, and wild vegetables on land that becomes more fertile with each year.
His journey begins at the age of 25, when the simple thought occurs to him that humans know nothing at all. As he follows this concept to its logical conclusion (maybe he doesn’t even exist at all!), he abandons a way of life centered on human knowledge, choosing instead to fully embrace the incomprehensibility of nature. The four principles of his farming are simple: 1) no plowing 2) no chemical fertilizers or prepared compost 3) no weeding by tillage or herbicide and 4) no dependence on chemicals. His methods are based on decades of observations of complex, naturally occurring systems, which he aims to do as little as possible to tamper with.
While the language of the book is simple, I found the philosophy difficult to wrap my head around. In fact, by trying to intellectualize it, I am automatically not resigning myself to nature. Nevertheless, Fukuoka’s most poignant point for me is that we can choose to live within a different societal construct from the one that has caused so much destruction to the earth, body, and spirit. He delves into details such as the role of a spider within his rice fields and the synergistic effects of a specific acacia tree, while also linking these elements to a holistic concept. Fukuoka’s life and his impact on those who have visited his farm are a breath of fresh air to someone who has read too many books about the many ways we are destroying the earth.
“The human being was a happy creature, but he created a hard world and now struggles trying to break out of it.”