The Spirit of Natural Farming
Recently while walking the farm with a couple visitors (and CSA members, who happen to be two of the greatest supporters of the farm’s ‘prana’ greens and herb mix), one of them said to us, “You need the sign we have at our front door: ‘Ring bell. If no one answers, pull weeds!'”
Though we don’t actually have a door bell on the farm house, nor can a person easily make it to the front door without the dogs giving them away, we do have an abundance of weeds! or seen in another way, dense, lush, tall vegetation! I recall times in the passed when new visitors have even asked, “Where is the farm?”
This especially feels to be the case right now, on a cool, breezy and WET May morning; the grass is tall, the dandelion powder-heads are at half mast, with the other half already having been dispersed into the wind, and thistles are ‘inter-planted’ here and there in what can sometimes feel to be invading armies, depending on which side of the bed you woke up on a given morning.
Meanwhile, the edges of many of the gardens and orchards, which transition into forest and trees, are often dense walls of brambles. 20 feet deep or more in some places, himalayan blackberry growth all but stifles any forward progress for us two-leggeds (quite the contrary for the countless critters that inhabit and find salvation in those very same bramble beds!).
Upon an initial and quick review, the farm could well appear to be in chaos! Hence, our recent introduction of 4 dwarf nigerian goats to the vast hillside.
And yet, I’m well aware that the farm isn’t is in chaos. Well, not to me at least!
Just beyond groves of thistle or 3′ grass, lie layers of mowed, mulched and burlapped walk ways. Interspersed within the dense vegetation are patches of persistent and expansive white clover, gradually increasing it’s stabilizing impact with the surrounding soil. In the garden beds themselves, though classic weeds emerge here and there, countless crops are growing and thriving. Magnificent and hearty garlic beds with emerging under story of bush beans. Hundreds of tomatoes under-sown with root crops, soon to be interplanted with peppers and lettuce. Row upon row of trellised snap and snow peas. Fava beans who stand in clusters of 5-6 plants in the middle of the long beds offer both stability and nitrogren to the brassicas and greens which share the edges of those same rows. Corn and Sunflower seeds are poked in between those same Fava Clumps. Mustards, carrots, and radish seed germinate on the soil and mulch alike, in dozens of beds throughout the expanse of the 2 acres of gardens. Oregano, Sage, Comfrey, Thyme, Hyssop and Rosemary are peppered around. Apple, Pear and Plum whips, Maple, elderberry, and alder saplings, all poke their head above the crowd, anywhere from 2′ to 10′ above the ground, interspersed throughout most all of the gardens.
Amidst all the seeming wilderness, there is an organized chaos! Amidst all the diversity of plants and critters, there is a great Unity. Compared with the hyper-controlled farm models of conventional agricultural, Ananda Farm looks more than a bit unkempt. There are no freshly tilled rows of empty soil (though I’m happy to announce there are indeed a few freshly weeded ones!). Piles of woodchips and brush are here and everywhere. Tall grass and mowed pathways. Goats, Alpacas, Chickens, Dogs, Cats, thousands of Plants, and a small group of Ananda Farmers who garden with hands, hearts, and minds, in an ever-evolving dance with life. This dynamic balance of life is for us, the Spirit of Natural farming.
Though it may not look like a farm; it grows food like one! As the soil regenerates through mulch and perennial plant power each season, and as the soil, herbs, trees, and life on the land mature on their own path of realization, so too the abundance that ‘natural’ farming provides. Though the organized mind may understandably shake it’s head at the audacity of a no-till, yoga-nature farm, a growing number of people on the planet realize it’s passed time for a different direction in agriculture; The idea of growing food for ourselves must once again expand to include all of nature in ideals of stewardship, harmony, abundance and cooperation. Yoga, after all, means Union, or Oneness.
In many ways, this is a new paradigm given where we are today in a world of mono-cultures, tilled fields, GMOs and chemical applications. Yet in the grand scheme of things, it is an old one. In a time before industrial revolutions, before the ‘dark ages’ of the medieval era, there were prolonged periods of peace and harmony, both on and with Earth. It is this direction then that also represents the future; The sanskrit word Smritti means divine remembrance; in the case of living on this planet, this means the divine remembrance of how to live harmoniously and with love for all life on this planet.
These too are the ideals which Fukuoka brought from his small farm in Japan to the world. Which Bhaskar Save brought from India to the world. Those ideals of Love which helped Luther Burbank and George Washington Carver create agricultural Renaissances in America in their own times of need. And so too today, does this connection to Nature, Plants, Animals and People need to be facilitated, nurtured and shared, each in it’s own unique way.
Each and all on this planet have a role to play in living and farming. Regardless then of your outward path in life, May the Joy of Natural Farming be within You.
“Feel the love of God…. You will find a magic, living relationship uniting the trees, the sky, all people, and all living things; and you will feel a oneness with them.”