Shumei Natural Agriculture

Q&A


1. What is Shumei Natural Agriculture?

Shumei Natural Agriculture is a way of cultivating wholesome food with heirloom or indigenous seeds and without the use of any fertilizers, chemicals or additives. It is more than an approach to agriculture – it is a way of living in harmony with nature. The key to this is the farmer’s relationship to nature. Natural Agriculture was developed by the Japanese naturalist and philosopher, Mokichi Okada, in the 1930s.

2. How is Natural Agriculture different from organic farming?

Although Natural Agriculture and organic farming share an ecological approach, one of the main differences is that Natural Agriculture does not use any additives as fertilizers in the growing process, including manure-based compost. A guiding principle of Natural Agriculture is the inherent power of the soil to produce healthy crops. Agricultural chemicals, synthetic/organic fertilizers and animal manure impair the soil’s innate energy and weaken plants’ natural resilience.

3. Is kitchen waste ever used in Natural Agriculture?

Recycling is an important part of a sustainable lifestyle. However, the practice of Natural Agriculture avoids reusing kitchen waste from conventional crops or processed foods as compost, because the chemical remnants from the food can contaminate the soil. Natural Agriculture food waste can be used as compost. However, any compost, cover crop or mulch, such as leaves from the surrounding area, applied to the soil is meant only to keep it soft, temperate and moist, and not as an additive or fertilizer.

4. How does Natural Agriculture deal with pests without the use of pesticides?

Insects are not considered ‘pests’ in the natural world, nor are weeds. The excessive appearance of insects that damage plants indicates an imbalance in nature. Rather than trying to control insects with harmful chemical pesticides or even natural ingredients, Natural Agriculture promotes a more comprehensive understanding of the role insects play and how to maintain their balance in the ecosystem. For instance, farmers on small plots of land can remove insects from plants or weed their fields by hand so they do not become excessive and damage plant life. Or they can investigate whether there is anything damaging the soil such as pine needles, leaves from oak or eucalyptus trees, berries from pepper trees, or other harsh plant foliage. Farmers can also harvest crops prone to infestation slightly earlier or grow them in greater quantities to allow for losses.

5. What other farming techniques/approaches are unique to Natural Agriculture?

In Natural Agriculture, a farmer’s relationship and respect for the natural world impacts all aspects of cultivation. For instance, Natural Agriculture farmers:

• Consider the plants and the soil to be conscious entities rather than insentient commodities.
• Experiment to see which crops work well for the soil. They will not try to force the land to produce an unsuitable crop for their needs.
• Respect the integrity and purity of seeds. They use only heirloom or indigenous seeds and collect seeds from Natural Agriculture crops at each harvest.
• Encourage continuous cropping instead of crop rotation because they believe that each generation of seeds improves and adapts to the particular soil and environment, and the soil also adapts to the particular crops.

6. What does it mean that Natural Agriculture is a way of life?

A core principle of Natural Agriculture is an overriding respect for nature. This means honoring the cycle of life, the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystems, developing a sense of gratitude for nature’s sustenance and recognition of the interconnectedness of all living things. By making decisions based on this understanding and respect for nature, our lives become more in tune with how nature works. This applies to the production and consumption of local and seasonal food, as well as all aspects of life. In this way, Natural Agriculture is a way of living in harmony with nature for both farmers and consumers.

7. What are the advantages of Natural Agriculture?

As a means of cultivation, Natural Agriculture:

• Provides an environmentally sustainable approach to food production;
• Does not require any additives, chemicals, fertilizers or purchased seeds;
• Prevents pollution of the soil, ground water, and rivers and oceans (from run off) as well as contamination of crops from chemicals, fertilizers and manure;
• Promotes biodiversity and healthy soil, reduces soil erosion, and can improve the soil’s potential for carbon sequestration thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
• Produces tasty, healthy crops from pure heirloom or indigenous seeds that are more resilient and adaptable to changing climates;
• Promotes seed collection which produces higher-quality seeds and reduces costs;
• Supports small, local farm holders, farmer-consumer relationships and lower energy consumption.

As a way of life in harmony with nature, Natural Agriculture:

• Builds the foundation for a sustainable lifestyle by developing a deep respect for nature and helps restore the relationships between humankind and the environment;
• Fosters an attitude of trust, gratitude and care which carries forth into relationships between farmers and consumers;
• Teaches consumers to appreciate nature’s sustenance and the importance of food safety and food security;
• Encourages consumers to buy, cook and eat local and seasonal foods, often honoring local cuisine and traditions that respect nature’s cycle;
• Encourages individuals to reconnect with nature in their own way and to see the beauty in their environment and surroundings;
• Honors the wisdom and support of traditional farming culture;
• Addresses economic, social, health and environmental costs of food production;
• Helps us understand the natural laws and principles of the universe.

8. Can Natural Agriculture work everywhere?

Natural Agriculture can be practiced wherever there is arable land. Depending on the environment, it may take additional time for certain crops to adapt. Nevertheless soil and crops will naturally adapt even in unfavorable climate conditions. One of the most important principles in Natural Agriculture is to learn and observe the natural environment.

9. Where can I buy Natural Agriculture produce?

Natural Agriculture farmers usually sell their produce at local farmers markets or through community-supported agriculture (CSA) networks. However, consumers are also encouraged to get involved in the growing process and to have gardens of their own. Anyone can start practicing Natural Agriculture.