WHAT IS NATURAL FARMING? 自然農とは。。。
It depends (the answer to most questions here at the Bullocks).
A simple summary of what I understand shizen no (shizen-nature/natural and no-farming/gardening) is growing food without tilling, fertilizing, or weeding. Those are the 3 elements that both Fukuoka (One Straw Revolution) and Kawaguchi (the one I met) use as the foundation of their gardening method.
But to reduce shizen no to only the above would be misleading and disrespectful. There is a deep spiritual dimension to our relationship to the web of life, and shizenno is an intentional relationship with nature, to grow food in harmony with all life. It is an art, a spiritual practice, and a path that will help us look deeper into how everything is connected. Similar to permaculture, its not another farming method or style, it is not just about growing food, it is a way of life. Well, at least that is how I receive it. I'll share more as I learn on my first adventure actually doing it. My intention is to share in a nourishing way without becoming dogmatic, which is a common criticism about Fukuoka. And please let me know how I can support your interest in shizen no.
Kawaguchi, who has been doing shizen no since the 70s, says "growing food in a way where we do not till, we do not fertilize, we do not spray pesticides, and we do not treat weeds and bugs as our enemy." His main principles are, "no tilling, no importing materials, and no exporting materials." Respecting all life by not straining our environment.
This is an invitation to try it out with me and enjoy a new way of growing food, a new understanding of life. There may not be any epiphanies, much "production", and you might struggle with the pureness of your experiment, but until you do it natural farming will only be an idea.
The picture on the top is the site of my experiment before any of my interventions. Looks quite lush with volunteers. The bottom is after I cut all the grass with the kama, Kawaguchi's tool of choice. I also staked it with bamboo to help envision the dimension of the garden beds.