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Masanobu Fukuoka’s spiritual revolution

Masanobu Fukuoka’s spiritual revolution

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SIMON WEBSTER looks at a legendary Japanese farmer in action.

A couple of clips I found on the internet recently make an intriguing introduction to the work of Masanobu Fukuoka. Produced in 1981, One Straw Revolution Part 1 and Part 2 (named after Fukuoka’s best-known book) show the Japanese farmer-philosopher in action on his land.

Fukuoka, who died in 2008, aged 95, was a radical, an advocate of “natural farming”,  who was scorning chemicals, using no-till methods, working with nature and practising a form of permaculture before the term was invented.

But Fukuoka is as interesting for his spiritual outlook as his farming techniques. “The more a farmer increases the scale of his operation, the more his body and spirit are dissipated,” Fukuoka says. “He falls away from a spiritually satisfying life. 

“A life of small-scale farming may appear to be primitive, but it allows me to study the Great Way. I believe that if one deeply understands the everyday world in which you are living, the greatest of worlds will be revealed.”

Fukuoka believed that nature knows best. She can’t be left entirely to her own devices if we want to feed ourselves, but she can be our model (which is pretty much the permaculture message).

And for those of us who don’t always get it right (that’s everyone, isn’t it?) he had some sage advice: “It doesn’t matter how the harvest will come out. Just sow seeds and care tenderly for plants and soil. You’ll have joy. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”