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Let me talk more about natural farming. Whether it is Fukuoka style or Kawaguchi style, the key concept of natural farming is to let nature take its own course. You utilize natural resources as much as possible.
In that sense, it is similar to Permaculture. As a matter of fact, it is said that Bill Morrison, one of the co-developers of Permaculture was influenced by Masanobu Fukuoka, so it isn’t surprising to see the similarity. Also, it is a universal principle that one can naturally discover, if you observe nature carefully. Bill Morrison spent many years leading a self-sufficient life in his village in Tasmania.
Not tilling is one example of letting nature take care of itself. The reason why you don’t till the land in natural farming is that by tilling you can destroy microorganisms living inside the soil. These microorganisms help make the soil fertile. According to Fukuoka, the reason why we started applying fertilizers is because we tilled the land in the first place. Another word, by stop tilling, we won’t need to apply fertilizers. Why go through all the trouble to dig the land and produce compost, while you can create the same result by not doing anything?
You don’t want to do too much weeding because the weeds can attract insects so that they don’t concentrate on the vegetables. In Kawaguchi style natural farming, we place weeds on the ground at the same spot after cutting them. In this way microorganisms will break down the weeds along with dead insects, and it will help make the soil fertile.
Kawaguchi suggests that you don’t want to take things out of the area or into the area, because each area has its own eco-system, which is self-functioning. The weeds, the insects, the soil and the microorganisms all belong there, each one playing a significant role.
I talked about Satoyama economy in the book Zen and a Way of Sustainable Prosperity.
In Japanese, the word Satoyama symbolizes ‘sustainability’. Sato means livable or arable land, and the word yama means mountains or hills. In Japan, the word Satoyama usually describes an area that has mountains, forests, residence, rice, or vegetable fields. The reason why Satoyama stood for sustainability was its ability to self-sustain by circulating resources within an area.
An area within your vegetable garden is a micro cosmos of Satoyama. It has its own self-sustaining power. If you cut the weeds and take them to your compost depot, or bring cow dung from neighboring farms to the area, you are destroying the eco-system there.
It is better to let the area be as it is.