I have never thought that I will have a chance to do farming with Buddhist monks. But sometimes life exceeds imagination.
I guess everyone already knows about “organic products” and “organic agriculture” but about “natural farming” I personally heard first time.
Early Saturday morning group of enthusiasts (including me) lead by nun of Dhurma Drum Mountain went to Beitou to visit a “natural farm”.
Method of natural farming was established by Japanese philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. Shortly, all the method is about bringing agriculture closer to wild nature conditions with a focus on sustainable growing process. And here is a difference with organic agriculture: organic supposes purity of products without focusing on the way of farming, so a purity can be achieved on very unnatural ways (like growing plants without soil or using some special fertilizers). Natural farming is cooperating with nature and copying natural ecosystem. Also this method called as “do-nothing farming” because it supposes minimal human intervention into what happens on garden.
Consumers themselves unwittingly encourage farmers to use chemicals and fertilizers by choosing the most beautiful fruits and vegetables. And here they are mistaken because plants grown in natural conditions are very different by size and outlook and seldom ideally pretty.
Natural farming excludes using fertilizers. For example on natural farm in Beitou they use a water from mountain spring which is already rich with minerals. The water spread above plants as rain drops for aeration of water itself.
There is no spudding before seeding. Weeds are being slightly pulled and its roots majorly remained in soil for further aeration and fertilizing without damaging the soil itself.
Those who from time to time travels outside of the Taipei can see pineapple farms where farmers use plastic cover on lines between pineapples. This method widely used to fight with weeds. And the plastic film often remained in ground for tens and hundreds years polluting the soil.
In natural farming monoculture planting is avoided. Different kinds of vegetables and fruits grow together as in wild which often brings plants beneficial neighborhood. Of course later it will be troublesome when ingathering but plants becoming more healthy.
The nun showed us a banana tree which survived undamaged in typhoon while banana trees of neighbor’s farms (not natural ones) are all was seriously damaged.
How then natural farmers protect their gardens from harmful insects? If they are not using any chemicals…
Natural farmers are simply do not care about it because nature already has its own response. Everything in nature is in a balance and wild plants survive successfully. Yes, part of plants can be damaged by huge amount of insects but it’s still beneficial for whole garden in longterm because left plants becoming stronger. For harmful insects also there are natural enemies: as in case with aphids and ladybird.
I was touched with example how farmer can protect his harvest from rat. For example there is a rat which often visits a corn bed. So as a natural farmer you should welcome a rat with a pealed corn ear. So the next time rat won’t try to bite new ones and just calmly will continue to eat this prepared one. When farmers try to kill rat with poison or other tools the animal feels danger so it nervously bites and eat all the corns on the way.
So, basically farmers can try peacefully share part of their harvest with other creatures and not fight for every seed.
Of course this farming method doesn’t fit existing concept of the most popular and efficient intensive agriculture where farmers are like soldiers on the battle for harvest.
But if to think responsibly about land where we grow our food: isn’t it originally belonged to all creatures and isn’t it selfish to occupy it just only for humans? Why we don’t try to accept that other creatures (animals and plants) also will be involved into farming?
Of course it’s much lower efficient way compare to intensive agriculture but if there are will be customers who ready to pay extra for such a sustainable farmers effort, why not?