Modern life carries its own distinct set of paradigms which are considerably distant from the benign, pastoral but sometimes busy existence which attends natural farming. If you live in one of the suburbs of New York City or in New Jersey and rise at 5-6 am to take the train into a Wall Street office to sell credit default swaps (CDOs) or some other incomprehensible financial derivative, it’s very unlikely you have thought seriously about natural farming lately. It’s not impossible. It’s just very unlikely that natural farming or even a small, but almost manageable garden merges with your high pressure job. But maybe you have a live-in gardener and handy man who does most of the work and you vicariously experience some of the joys of his or her handy work if you arrive home while there is still a little daylight remaining.
Unhappily, many areas of modern life have progressively moved us into more excessive, even crazy working patterns thinking that this is something we must do. However, as more and more work is replaced by ever more powerful computers, integrated into artificially intelligent systems or robotic elements, work will be simplified or we will work for pay less and less. This pattern is no longer limited to low skill, low pay work but is beginning to expand to high skill, high pay work as well. Work isn’t disappearing altogether, but jobs are disappearing more rapidly than they are being created. Many of us already work less and have more free time. In some cases, the underemployed create their own businesses or activities for which someone is willing to pay, and they also have time to do some of their own work, which they would normally pay someone else to do. In many cases those people are going to find that excessive work is not really necessary and that it may be possible to live a more comfortable life with an often agreeable net increase in free time.
Whether you do it alone or within a co-operative or commune-like structure, many of us will also move toward growing some or all of their own food. While such activity is on the increase, it is still considerably distant from broad application. Nevertheless, we should see many different experimental patterns of both communal living and natural farming emerge in the coming years. A most interesting, comprehensive and useful approach is taken by Fukuoka in his “One-Straw Revolution.”
Young people may organize within communities around older established natural, communal farming and give the Fukuoka or other alternatives a try, especially in view of the fact that new jobs for young people in many countries are in particularly short supply. They, and many others, may need to learn the practical skills of low-effort natural farming. Through apprenticeship training many more communal natural farms may emerge as well.
However such communities emerge and expand, a system that emphasizes straw, in-the-field composting, and recycling animal waste, some crop rotation and green manuring seems a most logical strategy. In Fukuoka’s approach planting on uncultivated soil, without use of chemical fertilizers, or chemical insecticides represent real benefits to the long term use of the soil. These practices amend and balance the soil in natural ways, cooperating with nature rather than just trying to use her. These strategies are also simplest and least expensive. They are virtues, but when space is limited, fields must still be carefully tended, planted and harvested.
In natural farming, humanity and nature are, in principle, joined together in a unique relationship that is symbiotic but not so easy to define. A more narrow view is that we “follow” nature, but perhaps without gaining wisdom. Relax and enjoy the work. Let the inevitable rewards come to you.