One of the continual challenges I face is the fact that most of what we are trying to do is so far outside mainstream agriculture that we receive our fair share of negative feedback that we need to counter with inspiration from other sources. While I subscribe to one of the mainstream farm newspapers in Ontario, the rest of my mailbox reading material won’t be found in many farm kitchens in Ontario – The Stockman Grass Farmer, Graze, and ACRES USA. My bookshelf also has some rather eclectic reading. Every once in a while I come across a book that “messes with my head”. The One-Straw Revolution is such a book. Even the story of the specific version I received is interesting. It was translated by an individual working in India and Silvia purchased it online from an Indian bookseller who shipped it to us in Canada. The foreword contains a description of how the translator had used Fukuoka’s principles to rescue the farm he was working on.
Masanobu Fukuoka lays out the story of his journey of discovering a system for no-till grain and rice production that equals modern agriculture for yield while eschewing synthetic fertilizer and pesticides. His only inputs are the seed and some chicken manure each year (no diesel fuel either as he did all his work by hand). The book doesn’t contain any agronomic tips that are directly transferable to food production in Southern Ontario but it does lay down the challenge of trying to break paradigms – both the high chemical input paradigm of conventional agriculture and the high tillage paradigm of organic agriculture.
I’m lecturing in the Sustainable Agriculture Program and Fleming College this semester and I plan to use this book as a counterpoint to standard organic production practices.