“The human being was a happy creature, but he created a hard world and now struggles trying to break out of it.”
Fukuoka’s iconic book about natural farming explains how his simple principles of working the land depend on our ability to cast aside the human will and ego. By observing and 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. In short, he aims to do as little as possible to interfere with these systems.
While the language of the book is simple, the philosophy is a bit mind-bending. Ironically, Fukuoko encourages readers to not try to intellectualize it. In the end, Fukuoka’s most poignant point 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 explores 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 specific examples to a holistic concept of ecological health. Fukuoka’s life and his impact on those who have visited his farm are a breath of fresh air to those of us who have read too many books about the many ways we are depleting the earth.