THE PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL AGRICULTURE

The essential principle of the Natural Agriculture method can be summed up best in the words of Shinji Shumeikai's founder and the creator of Natural Agriculture, Mokichi Okada, "The principle of the Natural Agricultural method is an overriding respect and concern for Nature. Nature can teach us everything."

Understanding Natural Agriculture
Without an understanding of the spiritual aspects that underlie all physical existence, it is impossible to understand Natural Agriculture. Because of this, the Natural Agriculture method must be approached more as a philosophy than a technique of food production.

Motivation
As with Shumei's other activities, Jyorei and Art, the motivation behind the practice of Natural Agriculture is to promote the happiness and wellbeing of others. The spiritual and physical health of both the environment and people are the byproducts of this desire to make life better.

Reverence for Nature
Natural Agriculture was born of a deep reverence for Nature. It is as much a spiritual practice as a method of food cultivation. Natural Agriculture's spiritual basis sets it apart from other forms of food cultivation.

Balance & Harmony
Modern science, which began in Renaissance Europe and now is the heritage of the entire world, is responsible for much of the material benefits that we enjoy today. However, science is limited. It can give us the facts but never the truth. Its approach is purely materialistic and can be nothing else if it is to be true to its own discipline. Science's spectacular success has overshadowed developments in art, philosophy, and spirituality. And society has come to expect science to fulfill all its needs to the neglect of the spirit. Consequently, at the beginning of the Twenty-first Century our deeply materialistic society is in a state of imbalance. Man, all life, and all things are spiritual as well as physical and unless spiritual as well as physical needs are met this imbalance will persist.
   Because much of contemporary culture is based on the consumption of materials, we have lost the ability to control the products of science and technology. Conventional agriculture is a good example. No reasonable person could deny the benefits brought to humanity by modern agriculture. Within one century, we have gained the potential to wipe out hunger, yet we have not. Feeding the world is still beyond our grasp and famine still is an ever-present threat to too many people. We do not feed the hungry of the world because it is not as profitable to do so as it is to supply consumers who can pay a dearer price for food they do not need.
   As great as the advantages of conventional agriculture are, they come with a heavy price. We can produce much food, however, we have lost control of these methods. The more natural practice of working with the soil has been ignored in favor of forcing the soil to produce crops that are more profitable. The heavy use of chemicals to produce vast quantities of food is poisoning both the people who eat it and our environment. The intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides necessary to maintain colossal yields is poisoning not only the food we eat but also the environment we live in and their steady use may actually be depleting the soil.
   Our food looks beautiful but is strangely tasteless. Family farms have been replaced with vast multinational-agriculture businesses, destroying rural communities as they eat up the land. And the majority of people, both farmers and consumers, in industrial and post-industrial societies have become alienated from that which gives them life -- Nature.
   One of the purposes of Natural Agriculture is to help balance and harmonize the science of agriculture with the art of agriculture, the physical with the spiritual, the body with the mind.

The Play of Elements in Food Production
There are Spiritual Cords or bonds between those who grow food, the soil, the food produced, and the people who eat the food. This spiritual aspect of food production and consumption directly affects both the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the farmer, the consumer, the community, and the environment. They are all elements in the production of food. All are part of Nature and each should play its part in harmony and balance with the others.

Purity
Shumei's emphasis on spiritual purity and its belief that all the difficulties that plague humankind essentially are of a spiritual nature carries over in its approach to food cultivation. Just as spiritual impurity or Spiritual Clouding causes all life's troubles, all problems associated with food production have their roots in the pollution of the environment. The produce of Natural Agriculture are grown with pure soil and water. It is only when the purity of the soil from which all our food comes is treated with care and understanding that the products of the soil will manifest their true and full power.
   Fertilizers, insecticides, and chemical soil treatments are never used. Only naturally occurring nutrients enrich the soil. Compost is not used as a nutrient but only to keep the soil moist, warm, and soft.
   The result is crops that are more resistant to disease and pests, better tasting, that stay fresh longer, and are more nutritious than those produced by standard industrial farming.

The Farmer
Fundamentally, the practice of Natural Agriculture is not only a business but also a spiritual pursuit. When practicing Natural Agriculture, it is important to observe a reverence towards both the soil and its bounty, and to cherish and honor that which gives us nourishment. This requires spiritual nourishing, which is the basis on which all physical nourishment depends. Because of this, much depends on the attitude and commitment of the farmers who choose to pursue Natural Agriculture. Their occupation is more a vocation than a business. They must not only have the physical means, diligence, training, and intelligence of conventional farmers but also be open to the spiritual aspect of their profession. It is essential that they be dedicated to improving the spiritual and physical wellbeing of others. It is also essential that they love and enjoy what they do.

The Earth's Healing Touch
Whether professional farmers or not, all who practice Natural Agriculture, even on a modest level, will benefit both physically and spiritually. All Shumei members are encouraged to grow some of the food that they eat, whether in a kitchen garden, working with others in a communal lot, or growing herbs in a clay pot on a windowsill. The touch of the pure soil has healing and restorative properties, and growing plants fosters a respect and veneration for Nature's beauty and wisdom. The practice of Natural Agriculture also aids emotional wellbeing. An appreciation of Nature and the food that we eat engenders a love of life.