Masanobu Fukuoka

Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”


Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

– Wendell Berry
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Anyone who has clicked more than once on this blog knows that Wendell Berry is somewhat of an idol for me. He sentences are weighty and easy to cherish, whether prose, poetry, or essay. Indeed, I think it is his poetry even more than Keats’ or Elliot’s that has established the value of the art form in me.

This piece is so typically Berry, going infinitely deep with so few words. The aspect I reflect on here is how effortlessly he expresses highly subversive ideas in a completely legitimate human frame. He reflects on ideas of what makes us most human (planting, motherhood, caring for one another, heritage) and validates those as reasonable motivations to revolt against quick living, thoughtless consumption, and political imperialism.

I need to meditate on this daily.

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Keep Reading

What Mary Berry Expects From Her Father

Masanobu Fukuoka On The Philosophy Behind Our Science

For Courage Of Quiet Mothers by M. Landers

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Michael Pollan Didn’t Start This


“Americans today are having a national conversation about food and agriculture that it would have been impossible to imagine even a few short years ago. To many Americans it must sound like a brand-new conversation, with its racing talk about high price for cheap food, or the links between soil and health, or the impossibility of a society eating well and being in good health unless it also farms well. But to read the essays in this sparkling anthology, many of them dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, is to realize just how little of what we are saying and hearing today Wendell Berry hasn’t already said, bracingly, before.

And in that “we” I most definitely, and somewhat abashedly, include myself. I challenge you to find an idea or insight in my own recent writings on food and farming that isn’t prefigured (to put it charitably) in Berry’s essays on agriculture. There might be one or two in there somewhere, but I must say that reading and rereading these essays has been a deeply humbling experience.

It has also been a powerful reminder that the national conversation now unfolding around the subject of food and farming really began back in the 1970s, with the work of Berry and a small handful of his contemporaries, including Francis Moore Lappé, Barry Commoner, and Joan Gussow. All four of these writers are supreme dot connectors, deeply skeptical of reductive science, and far ahead not only in their grasp of the science of ecology but in their ability to actually think ecologically: to draw lines of connection between hamburgers and the price of oil, or between the vibrancy of life in the soil and the health of the plants and animals and people eating from that soil.”

– Michael Pollan, excerpt from his Introduction to Wendell Berry’s farm essay collection Bring It To The Table

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I truly respect men like Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin, but, as Pollan himself lets us know here, they are late to the game when it comes to the crisic farming, economic, and ecological situations today. They were simply born too late, and their interest in the issue is necessarily similar to mine in that it is basically reactionary.

If I were born in the 1940s, would I so easily see the growing problems of the changing system that Berry and Lappé saw the 1960s? I would love to say yes, of course I could spot the obvious flaws, but since almost no one else did, I can’t be confident that I would have been so cautious. We have to look to the men who saw the problems not because of their results but by their roots in poor thinking and short-sighted planning. The Berrys and Fukuokas were thinking differently when the problems were still originating; their thoughts and opinions carry the weight of an utterly alternative outlook from the start.

Do we need younger men to take on this alternative mindset? I certainly hope so; I am eager to be one. Ideally everyone would catch on to a different big picture from the current pipe dreams being dealt out. The problem itself has lasted so long at this point that it would be difficult for those who saw it coming to outlive it. Generations must pick up the torch to make change, but we have to always go back to what went wrong and who witnessed it happening.

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Related Reading

An Agricultural Insight From Tolkien And Lewis

A Japanese Scientist Questions The Reasonability Of Agricutural Science

Wendell Berry On The Difference Btween A Path And A Road

Author Quotes: Masanobu Fukuoka and The Philosophy Behind The Science


“Before researchers become researchers they should become philosophers. They should consider what the human goal is, what it is that humanity should create. . .

Modern research divides nature into tiny pieces and conducts tests that conform neither with natural law nor with practical experiences. The results are arranged for the convenience of research, not according to the needs of the farmer. To think that these conclusions can be put to use with invariable success in the farmer’s field is a big mistake.
Recently Professor Tsuno of Ehime University wrote a lengthy book on the relationship of plant metabolism to rice harvests. This professor often comes to my field, digs down a few feet to check the soil, brings students along to measure the angle of sunlight and shade and whatnot, and takes plant specimens back to the lab for analysis. I often ask him, ‘When you come back, are you going to try non-cultivation direct seeding?’ He laughingly answers, ‘No, I’ll leave the application to you. I’m going to stick to research!’
So that is how it is. You study the function of the plant’s metabolism and its ability to absorb nutrients from the soil, write a book, and get a doctorate in agricultural science. But do not ask if your theory of assimilation is going to be relevant to the yield.”

– Masanobu Fukuoka, from the essay “Limits of the Scientific Method” in “The One-Straw Revolution.” Translated from the original Japanese.
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I have spoken briefly about Fukuoka here before, but the man really deserves a greater deal of credit for the things he revealed in his lifetime. A trained scientist and researcher himself, his contributions came not in any scientific field but through over half a century of rehabilitating fields and orchards that had been utterly sapped.

Fukuoka realized, simply, that when we live outside of the order and systems of nature, which replenishes its own resources, we are building a false reality. Based on this premise, he quit his scientific research and went to discern how to cultivate the land while altering nature as little as possible. He learned to do less alteration than any other form of farming while producing comparable or increased harvests. The only requirement was to spend a few years getting to know the land, weather, and the nature of the plants being propagated.

I usually read his work with my mouth hanging open. The man worked hard in his fields and orchards for around 70 years, devoting his old age to researching solutions to fight desertification. In his lifetime he perfected completely natural farming of all kinds of grains, vegetables, and citrus. Yet somehow, his work goes unnoticed by those who don’t seek it out.

C.S. Lewis And J.R.R. Tolkien: “The Strength Of The Hills Is Not Ours”


While permaculture is still a newish (30-40 years) subject of suddenly increased interest (myself falling in among the band-waggon stagers), I’m learning not to be surprised when I stumble upon a highly relevant, pre-dating thought from someone who would not be considered a natural farming resource. In a letter to his life-long pen pal Arthur Greeves dated the 22nd of June, 1930, C.S. Lewis mentions Tolkien’s thoughts on the spiritual and generational effects of living directly off of the physically surrounding country.

“Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when the family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood – they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air & later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, & Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.”

People like Fukuoka, Lewis, Berry and Tolkien seem to have this in common: they interest was not in resonse to a couple of generations of problems and discontent, or because of some impending global disaster. They began by asking themselves much larger questions about what it means to be human and, when alighting upon confident conclusions, the implications of what they understood led them to value the concepts that permaculture and natural farming ideals now come to out of desparation or fear. They were asking these questions in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 50’s. When everyone else was head over heels in love with new technologies, they were wondering at what had been lost. I am in no way implying that those who desire to live naturally do not see the immense beauty before them, I only mean to point out the difference between coming from a concept to its implication versus finding that the natural is the necessary solution to so much unnatural action. I think I’ll go medetate on these philosophies a bit more before heading back into the practical how-to’s.

Masanobu Fukuoka and Wendell Berry: Finding Non-Fiction That Changes You For The Better


So I’m beginning to think that I may have lied to you.

About a week ago I made a big point of the fact that I basically hate non-fiction reading. The assertion was that I am bored by non-biographical information in long form. While I’m still not ready claim that I can easily finish a full book of non-fiction, I am realizing that the claim may make it sound like I don’t enjoy learning about reality, when in actuality I love a lot of broader types of information in smaller doses.

Natural Farming is one subject that I have been interested in for a few years and, more recently, permaculture. My interest in permaculture was sparked when my friend’s wife (who is also, interestingly enough, a friend of mine) took the course about this time last year and told us all about the huge wealths of information involved. This interest has recently blossomed upon finding that the Permaculture Design Course is offered online for free! Through this training I found out about Masanobu Fukuoka, and I am actually attempting to read two of his non-fiction books. Gasp!

Fukuoka reminds me of Wendell Berry, and that is not just because Berry did the foreword 0f his first English-language book. Berry is a farmer, essayist, poet, and novelist from Kentucky (my homeland) who has been championing natural causes, local culture and small farming for half a century. I have been a long-time fan of his breath-taking prose and poetry, and his essays are written so that every sentence expresses a grave wisdom that most others could take paragraphs to attempt without accomplishing. He has been farming his Kentucky hillsides for about half a century now.

I have found that Fukuoka is also a champion of the overlapping between the arts and nature.

There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to

write poetry or compose a song.

— Masanobu Fukuoka

I’m going to do my best to finish these Fukuoka books and eventually begin to impliment the techniques of permaculture in our lifestyle.

With the recent tragic death of the great artist Philip Seymour Hoffman, I am left somberly wondering if perhaps his life and full career may have been twice as long and three times as artistically-fulfilling if he were able to find a different way to live, a different atomosphere in which to foster his creative inclinations. A terrible tragedy, linked back to a lifestyle, developed in the same atmosphere that made the artist great.

I am starting to find the answer to my own ask-the-reader question; I am finding that non-fiction and fiction alike can be powerful resources for good change, if we let it change our actions.