I’ve been slowly slurping up the wisdom found in Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution. Several times a week, I read from Fukuoka’s collection of essays, which on the surface, are about how to garden naturally. Below the surface, his words reflect a spiritual path to walk softly on the earth.
Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was born and raised in Japan and studied as a microbiologist and agricultural scientist. After his schooling, he went to work for a corporation as a plant pathologist.
One day, in his mid-twenties, Fukuoka fell ill and was hospitalized for pneumonia. After he was released from the hospital, he wandered aimlessly, feeling depressed and anxious about “the nature of life and death.” (p. 8)
That night he fell asleep outside and woke as dawn crept over the harbor. As Fukuoka watched the sun rise, he had the sudden realization “in this world there is nothing at all,” and he realized he “understood nothing.” (p. 8)
His epiphany led him to leave his corporate job and to wander for several months. He returned to his family’s farm where he wished to explore “natural farming.” Fukuoka’s “conviction was that crops grow themselves and should not have to be grown.” (p.13)
After one season, which resulted in the destruction of his father’s orchard, his father told his son to leave and to find discipline. Fukuoka, who realized it is not a good idea “to apply this way of thinking all at once,” did leave and worked eight years for a company dedicated to increasing food production. After the war ended, he returned to the family farm and devoted himself to finding the least disruptive way to interact with the natural world and grow food.
For the rest of his life, Fukuoka looked for natural patterns. He understood imposing labels such as good or bad limited one’s understanding of natural cycles and caused humans to make decisions which brought about unintended consequences.
For example, when pesticides are used to get rid of “weeds” and “pests,” the naturally occurring ecosystem is disrupted. Plants and animals needed to support biodiversity die; and consequently, more human intervention, such as spreading chemical fertilizers, is needed to grow crops.
In turn, the chemicals used in pesticides and fertilizers are found in drinking water as well as in food. Humans and other animals are now ingesting synthetic chemicals like glyphosate (the herbicide found in Roundup). While the Environmental Protection Agency has not declared glyphosate a carcinogen, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.” Many countries, including Mexico and Germany, are working toward banning the use of glyphosate by the year 2024. As Fukuoka states, “Doctors and medicine become necessary when people create a sickly environment.” (p. 16)
Ultimately, Fukuoka discovered that the growing technique is not the most important factor, rather he believes “the state of mind of the farmer” is more important. (p. 46) He realized that the job of the farmer was not to control nature but instead to live in harmony with nature. Fukuoka understood the healing of the land could not be separated from the healing of the body.
I think Fukuoka encapsulated his way of life best when he said:
“When I go to the fields or the orchard I say to myself: make no promises, forgot about yesterday, do not think about tomorrow, put sincere effort into each day’s work and leave no footprints here on earth.” (p. 184)
I highly recommend The One-Straw Revolution, especially as we enter the growing season. Reading Fukuoka’s words not only inspire me to interact with the garden differently, his book also inspires me to interact with the world differently.
P.S. If you want to be involved in the Shakti Garden this year, please send me an email below. I already am working on the spring schedule and would love to receive your input.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Five years later, Kim is still in the flow of supporting and building a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.