I'm slowly moving into my Natural Farming experiment as I finish my allocated main gardens which I am doing more or less the Biointensive garden method I learned at the University of California Santa Cruz Program in Agroecology and Community (PICA), Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), and the Homeless Garden Project. I've gotten better at it over the years but it just seems like a lot of work and something about it seems "unnatural" to me. Especially weeding. I really don't like weeding, and I think the weeds don't like it too. Also, with the CASFS organic garden apprenticeship, the focus seems to be in production and surviving/thriving in our current economic system as a small-scale organic farmer. In a world where our economic system doesn't fully respect and appreciate farmers and our environment, it seems like an unnecessarily hard path to take. Maybe things are getting better slowly now. I also don't want to mix growing food with money. Growing food and taking care of the earth is a spiritual practice, a necessity for us to survive and live. But, as many will respond, that's too idealistic. We will see about that, after all don't ideals help us to transform and evolve?
I heard about natural farming from one of the gardeners at UC Santa Cruz. He talked about the book "One Straw Revolution" and mildly got me excited. But, I never read that book and instead read "The Natural Way of Farming: Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy" while farming in Costa Rica. That made me want to learn more about the topic and actually see it in practice. In permaculture circles natural farming comes up here and there and it is always associated with Masanobu Fukuoka. And although I met people who have met him (at UCSC and elsewhere), I could never find anybody practicing his method.
Then last year when I went back to Japan I started to hear about a natural farmer Yoshikazu Kawaguchi. In Japan, when natural farming is mentioned, Kawaguchi is the person people talk about. A friend invited me to meet and interview him at his home and I was able to explore his beautiful weed filled rice paddies and gardens. I asked him about Fukuoka and shared a bit about permaculture and food forests. I might write more about that later, but for now I'd rather share some translations about him and the natural farming he teaches. Followed by updates on my own natural farming experiment here in Washington.
A little on Yoshikazu Kawaguchi. He was born in 1939 in Nara prefecture. He suffered mentally and physically from chemical (conventional) agriculture and begins to explore natural farming in the mid-70s. He now advises and teaches natural farming all over Japan. He's written a few books such as (roughly translated) "Standing in a strange garden" (1990), "Natural farming-the world of Yoshikazu Kawaguchi" (2000), "The path of natural farming" (2005), and a couple of others. I don't think any of them have been translated.