I just finished reading The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming by Mansanobu Fukuoka. It was an awesome book! I really liked it, but I have some issues with it as well, which we will discuss.
The one-straw revolution is the teachings of Mansanobu Fukuoka (foo-koo-oh-ka). As a young man he was a scientist and worked himself into sickness. On his almost-to-be deathbed he gained a new philosophy, that human existence was worthless, as was life. He spent a few years working on his family farm, went back to being a scientist and then finally took over the family farm 8 years later. All this lead up to Fukuoka attempting to work with nature on his farm instead of using industrial agriculture techniques.
After 30 years of practice and many mistakes, Fukuoka learned that the simple act of spreading rice straw on the fields after they were harvested improved the soil quality. He teaches that farming should be easy and simple. He believes no one should use artificial fertilizer, prepared compost, cultivation or machines to work the land. He also teaches a lot of japanese philosophy in his book, which I will break down in a moment.
Fukuoka’s book is wonderful for two reasons. One, his personal story is very compelling and interesting. To see a man seemingly living life to the fullest and watch him become disgusted with life and deem it worthless, only to come back and do something extremely important with it is very interesting. I enjoyed his personal story very much even though I did not understand his thoughts.
The second is that the book is very useful for learning his natural gardening techniques. They are similar to Ruth Stout’s No-Work Garden Book in that he does not till the ground or bury seeds. However, he does not bring external ingredients to the garden for mulch like Ruth, he relies on what he produces on the farm. Fukuoka spreads seeds wrapped in clay and then covers them in rice straw. This way he grows rice in dry fields, then wheat/barley and then a small crop of clover. He explains how he controls each one and plants at certain times to produce higher yields than any farm in Japan.
The third, and arguably the biggest part of the book is the Japanese philosophy that I don’t really care for. Basically it says that since you are no longer a child and cannot see the world without attempting to understand it, you will never see it for what it truly is. I’m all about being enlightened, but I’m going to term this as a whole bunch of asian mumbo-jumbo. I understand it, but I don’t really think it’s the key to enlightenment. Furthermore, I think it’s absolutely impossible to accomplish, so why bother?
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
This book is COMPLETELY WORTH READING! I read it in less than 3 hours, so it’s a pretty short read for almost 200 pages. Many famous people, such as Bill Mollison and Joel Salatin have read and been inspired by Fukuoka. His techniques are wonderful, but almost completely unique to Japan’s climate. All his techniques would have to be adjusted to be used in a temperate climate or tropical climate.
Please read this book. It’s a wonderful addition to the gardening/homesteading arsenal!
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