Science for the poor, technology for human
and philosophy for all
By Cho Han Kyu
President of Janong Natural Farming Institute
“Natural Farming is an innovative new method of farming that utilizes the nature’s powers for maximum performance rather than human intervention. Natural Farming uses natural materials instead of chemicals as its unique inputs. Materials are locally available and cheap, and the farming inputs are made by the farmers instead of being purchased from the market; thus lowering cost for the farmers and converting waste into resources. It does not use herbicide, pesticide, antibiotic, hormones or other artificial chemicals. It also does not till the land with machines. Natural Farming is practiced in over twenty countries, recognized of its strength to produce more at less cost. Being “farmer-friendly,” it is also being used as a tool to improve the living of the poor farmers in the third world.”
Culling innocent animals
As I write this English preface, my heart is deeply grieved by the news of millions of chickens and ducks being culled and slaughtered all over Asia. Bird flu epidemic, the toll of which is not limited to animals, is bringing fear and chaos; whilst our memory of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) lives still so fresh.
Only weeks ago, we were coping with the newly-risen mad cow disease. Only moments before that, we were fighting against foot-and-mouth disease. Pig cholera also caused the culling of many animals and the sorrow of numerous farmers. It seems as if disease develops one after another; a new one emerges once a cure found. Human continues to fight, armed with powerful weapons of science. But is there an end to this war? Aren’t there any ways of reacting other than fighting?
We perceive disease as the enemy and the Nature’s unpredictability as the “axis of evil.” We think we are doing the best to protect our livestock and crops from such evil threats and believe the war holy and just. Is it really so? Aren’t there any human-incurred aspects that we need to address instead of simply being relieved at the magnitude and efficiency of numbers of living creatures that we slaughter? If indeed our slaughter is a result of or linked to human misdoing, then our sins are more deeply rooted than we imagine. What is the fundamental distinction between good and evil anyway?
It is time that we ask ourselves: what have we been doing to the living creatures? What have we been doing to the Nature? What have we been doing to ourselves? And what will or shall be done next?
Changes in farming trends
In Korea, traditional farming methods started to disappear with the intrusion of foreign militarists and corrupted businessmen in the early 20th century. “Farming of exploitation” began to spread. Under the name of better productivity, farmers were forced to obey the tide of change. For 40 years, this method was transplanted and the new generation of farmers grew up knowing this as the only way of farming.
Then, with the end of World War II, the western culture and thinking rushed into Korea. The farming of exploitation was substituted; this time with a “farming of destruction and killing.”
Now what is foreign has become what is good. Those who try to develop something indigenous, something that truly benefits the farmers, and something that loves the regions are being treated as fools. Come to think of it, the farming ' our very backbone of life' has lost a sense of direction.
Natural Farming, too early a birth
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides were introduced to our hometown when I was little. Having practiced farming myself since birth, I could not easily agree with the new, so-called scientific agriculture. So I went in another direction. In 1967, I organized a group of farmers that studied ways of higher yield without using these chemicals that also required less labor. We saw the miraculous boost of production that chemical fertilizers did, so we wanted to emulate it the natural way.
Our trial was successful; we confirmed methods that produced more at less cost with better quality. I named this new methodology “Natural Farming.” It was established by putting together my farming experience, insight and learning I acquired from different gurus. Natural Farming since it is not my original work; I have put together and developed further the insights of other pioneers. One should be honest about the origin and indebting of one’s work.
It could not have been better had the government recognized my effort and results, and took it into its policy ? even only partially. After all nowadays “organic farming” ? a term non-existent then ? has become a strong trend which every government is zealous to pursue.
But in the 60’s, it was different. I was treated as an anti-government criminal. I was threatened, imprisoned, and severely tortured. The authoritarian military government suspected me of being a communist. Their heart was not big enough to embrace one man’s criticism against the chemical-intensive, destructive farming they tried to transplant onto their motherland’s soil. One man’s suffering was but too small for the world to hear. Although I still carry the mental and physical trauma acquired then, I bear no hatred to those who tortured me. For the cause lied not in men but in time too unripe.
Great teachers of Natural Farming
I shall attribute Natural Farming to three formless teachers and three human teachers. The three formless are God, Nature, and conscience. I daresay that it was the wisdom of the Holy Bible that I gained numerous insights into the truth of life and creation. For it is not the word of man but the voice of the omniscience. Secondly, Nature is also a great teacher. Nature reveals its secrets when human humbles himself. When you are willing to learn, your eyes will open; when you dare to defeat the Nature, your eyes do not see beyond the knowledge you make. Thirdly, I have been faithful to my conscience. I made choice that answered my conscience not my greed. I held my faith strong that use of chemicals shall be suppressed, rights of crops and livestock shall be respected, and farming shall be a happy, healthy and productive labor.
I met the three human teachers in Japan. As I was fortunate enough to meet the three, I have wondered if the three had been put together, what a great picture it would make. So in my very limited and humble capacity, I have strived to put them together.
After 50 years of numerous trial and errors I finally did come up with this “Natural Farming.” I tried to develop one that suits the Korean climate, but now I know that the principles of Natural Farming can be taken to any place, any climate.
1. The first guru, Yamagishi Miozo
The first teacher I met was Yamagishi Miozo, the founder of Yamagishism. He was not a theorist; he was a farmer full of love and respect for life. He put the basic rights of chickens before productivity. To him, spirit and mind was more important than technology and management. His teaching has much implication on modern science that treats life only as material or machine.
2. The second guru, Shibada Genshi
Mrs. Shibada and old lady Gamei guided me when I visited Mr. Shibada’s house in October 1965. It was an ordinary farmhouse with paddy and field. In the center of the field was a small hut where there were many Japanese cedar barrels full of enzymes. One of the barrels had beans baked 10 years ago. I could not believe my eyes when I saw those beans sprouting. I pinched my cheeks to make sure I wasn’t dreaming! Mrs. Shibada told me that “among trees, the cedar is strongest and among fruits, clematis is the strongest.”
Through sensei Shibada, I opened my eyes to the remarkable world of enzymes and microorganisms. I still cherish his book, “The True Meaning of Enzymes.”
3. The third guru, Oino Ueyas
My third teacher was Oino Ueyas who made first the Kyoho cultivars in Japan. I have read more than dozen times his book titled, “The Theory of New Cultivation Technology.” The straightforward logic on physiological and behavioral pattern of plants gave me wisdom to see the plants with a new perspective, and his theory of the “Nutritive Cycle” has enabled me to talk with the plants.
When a woman is pregnant, she has morning sickness. Why is it so? It’s because the balance of nutrition is broken since another living organism is in her body. Different kinds of nutrition are needed for her baby, but she cannot provide enough of them at once. What pregnant women need and like to eat is something sour (acidic) and this belongs to phosphoric acid.
Then I realized that floral differentiation in plants is the same phenomenon as morning sickness of humans. I tried applying phosphoric acid (P) at that period; the result was astounding. 4-5 red peppers or eggplants fruited in a node that used to open only one. Applying the right input according to the nutritive cycle, I found that plants sustained high yield. The same was true for livestock.
Progress in one-way street
We are living on a dream. We have dreamt and still dream that the use of chemicals will increase productivity and profitability. Korean farmers have called chemical fertilizer the “golden rain”; for after this rain showered, crops grew as if enchanted. Now we know what these fertilizers do to our soil in making short-term visible outcome. Now we know what the herbicide does to the plant, microorganisms, soil and most importantly, to us. Crops and livestock are smeared with herbicide, pesticide, fungicide, growth hormones, antibiotics, colorants and much more. But the truth is “all is not gold that glitters.”
Our age is marked by high productivity historically unseen. More is produced than ever but the distribution is not so equal. Poor countries and people get poorer, while the rich get richer. Farming as a job has become synonymous to poverty while global competition sets more burdens on small farmers. Long ago has farming seized to be a tool for living if not for indebting. In Korea, in the past, farmers borrowed money to farm, but now they borrow money to pay back the money.
Even as we enjoy the unprecedented advancement of science, and production incorporated therein, we also witness the sustaining threat to public health even in the wealthy countries. Obesity, diabetes, sclerosis of the arteries and many more disease of extravagance-origin take their tolls. Hazardous chemicals contained in food and environment threaten us and our next generations. Babies are born malformed. Children suffer from newly emerging diseases such as atopy. They are now often victims of disease that were thought to belong only to adults such as cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. Poverty and poor living conditions continue to ail third world people.
On the other hand, I also hear “good” news. It was a team of aspired Koreans (Dr Hwang Woo Suk) that brought breakthrough by successfully developing a re-nucleated cell into a stem cell. Science is doing more and more miracles. Agriculture is making remarkable progress integrated with the bio-, chemical-, genetic-, and mechanical-accomplishments of science. We have corns that are genetically modified to withstand heavier dose of herbicide. We have state-of-the-art, fully automated chicken farms where the sun shines for 22 hours a day. We have powerful chemicals that make boost plant and animal growth. We have super-sized eels to promise better profit.
Farming is now hardly distinguishable from mechanics. Life is treated as a tool for productivity. Everything is so efficient, scientific, and immaculate. But is it really so? Don’t we witness right before our eyes the scientific farming troubled with insurmountable and consecutive diseases, and often jeopardizing human health with contaminated food? Science and technology also alienate those inaccessible to such knowledge and incapable of investment. What meaning does science have to the poorest farmer in the third world but as a more efficient and arduous system of exploiting labor designed by engineers, investors and managers?
Think reverse: progress in another direction
Our efforts, mostly good-willed, tend to focus in one direction. We perceive progress as a one-way street. By developing science, furthering technology, and piling investment, we believe we can make improvements. I am not saying this is wrong; I only want to point out that we can think otherwise.
Instead of relying on newest scientific achievements we can seek for wisdom of utilizing the Nature’s powers. Instead of relying on big investment, we can seek a way of farming that “unnecessitates” cash. Instead of using market-bought chemicals, we can use natural materials (and life) that lie around us and cost no money. Instead of regarding contamination of soil and water as inevitable, we can practice a way of farming that rehabilitates the ecology. Instead of doing everything ourselves, we can let the nature do all the work. Because our knowledge is always fragmentary whereas the Nature knows the whole but never speaks.
This is the basic philosophy of Natural Farming. Nature does it better. Human are a part of the Nature not its master; our wisdom lies in finding harmony not surmounting it. But alas, our smart civilization is going forward only in the direction of surmounting the Nature. Why search so far when answer lies so close?
Method of Natural Farming
Natural Farming and organic farming are different. Let me introduce some unique points about Natural Farming:
Natural Farming is a sustainable farming. It makes all inputs from natural materials, observes the law of the Nature and respects the rights of crops and livestock. It heals the soil slashed by chemicals, herbicide and machines. Where Natural Farming is practiced, the soil and water become clean and ecology is recovered. It is even being used as a tool to fight desertification.
2. Respect for life
Natural Farming respects life. It opposes human exploitation on life. Ironical it may sound; respecting the nature of the life is the best way to achieve top quality and yield. We prevent disease rather than curing with medicines. We rear healthy animals rather than feeding them hormones and antibiotics.
Crops and livestock reared by Natural Farming are very healthy. They have almost no disease and show especially strong resistance to climatic fluctuation. Natural Farming orchards in Korea were least damaged by the notorious typhoon that ruined other farms in 2003.
3. High quality
People commonly think that organic farming produces smaller yields, lower quality and smaller-sized fruits. In Natural Farming it is the opposite. We do not go back to the past; we take a leap into the future. Natural Farming products have much higher nutritional contents. Protein, amino acid, crude fat and other essential nutrient were identified to be as much as 300 percent higher than ordinary products. Chemical residue such as nitrate is almost undetectable. (KAERI, 1996)
4. No pesticide
Natural Farming does not use pesticide. Pesticides do not only kill insects; they reside in the soil and fruit. When absorbed, it can do serious harm to our bodies and even our next generations. Instead of using toxic chemicals, we use light, alcohol, aroma, poisonous plant and the like to control pests. More surprisingly, an ecology that recovered the natural balance will drop in the pests and disease occurrence. Natural Farming does precisely that. Most of our farmers are certified by the government as low or zero pesticide.
5. No herbicide
Natural Farming does not use herbicide. Killing the weeds with chemical is not the only solution nor is it wise. Herbicide is lethal to human. How can it only kill the weeds? Natural Farming uses the weeds rather than killing them. We actually grow the wild grass such as rye and clover for mulching. Natural Farming orchards are green with grass growing between the fruit trees. The grass prevents soil erosion, holds moisture, propagates microorganism, produces organic fertilizer, improves soil ventilation and suppresses the pests. How can it only be a thief of nutrients?
6. No mechanical tillage
Instead of using machines for plowing, we use earthworms, microorganisms and small animals. Machine can plow 20 centimeters at best, whereas earthworms will dig 7 meters. The excretions of the earthworms turn into the best soil. After practicing Natural Farming, the soil inflates like a balloon. Our little workers tilled so well that your hand will slide in as if into a soft cake. Making soft soil for the plant will actually weaken its roots.
Because you don’t till the land, the grass seeds in the soil do not come up to the surface. In other words, after the grass on the surface have germinated and died, you will have no more weed problems! No tillage and no herbicide are linked.
7. No chemical fertilizer
Natural Farming does not use chemical fertilizer. Nor does it follow the common practice of applying over half of the fertilizer as base manure. Crops will become weak if given too much food at early stage. Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and all other elements that would be commonly given in the form of chemical fertilizer are substituted with Natural Farming inputs. Fish amino acid provides nitrogen, eggshells give calcium, animal bones are source of phosphoric acid. Our Natural Farming inputs are not only cheap but highly effective.
8. No pollution
Natural Farming animal houses do not emit any wastewater. There is no need to install an expensive treatment machine. All the treatment is done right on the floor itself. As soon as feces fall on the floor, it is quickly decomposed by the powerful microorganisms. Floor is not made from concrete, it is touching the soil; it is alive. Rice straw, sawdust, fresh soil are used for flooring.
Even if you use a Natural Farming animal house for many years, you do not need to remove the feces. They are decomposed so do not pile up or smell. It is a common sight to see our farmers eating their meals inside the pig sty. Our method is revolutionary considering the serious pollution that livestock wastewater are doing to our rivers.
9. No artificial heating
Our animal houses do not provide any artificial heating. Rather than consuming fossil fuel or electricity we think it is wiser to develop the animal’s natural resistance against cold. A healthy animal does not need such human-improvised help. Natural Farming chicks grow short, tough and dense hair whereas ordinary chicks have long, soft and sparse hair. In extremely cold climate, we use heat from fermentation of compost.
10. Natural feed made by farmers
Natural Farming animals do not only eat commercial feed from the market. They eat natural food prepared by farmers with love and affection. Chicks are given with whole brown rice grains and bamboo leaves immediately after hatching. Tough food develops their intestines. We do not give antibiotics, hormones, colorants or other chemicals to our animals. We give them what nature has given them to eat. We use grass, rice husk, rice bran, left-over food, sawdust and even soil for feed. They go through our special treatment and assorting.
11. Farming inputs are made by farmers
One of the most important aspects of Natural Farming is that the farmers make what they need. Fertilizers, soil improvers, pest controllers, disease cure are all made by the farmers themselves using only natural materials based on the Nutritive Cycle theory. We do not simply buy materials from the market and follow the manual. We make what we need and follow the principle of the nature. By doing so, we save money and perform better. Our field, hills, forest, rivers, ocean and all surroundings are full of useful materials that are tools of our farming; only if we open our eyes. This is why Natural Farming can be a powerful tool for the third world farmers who cannot afford to buy expensive imported farming inputs.
Our important inputs include Indigenous Microorganism (IMO), Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ), Oriental Herbal Nutrient (OHN), Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB), Fish Amino Acid (LAB), Water-soluble Calcium (WCA), Water-soluble Calcium Phosphate (WCP), and Insect Attractant (IA). All produced at home easily and cheaply. Most importantly, they work!
12. Nutritive Cycle Theory
We care for the crops and livestock according to the “Nutritive Cycle Theory.” It is a theory that enables us to read the changing growth stages of a plant or animal. We apply fertilizer, feed, or prescription precisely according to this cycle. Natural Farming is a very elaborate, complicated and precise method that denies “spray-and-forget” approach.
The general idea is that the crops and livestock need nitrogen when young, phosphoric acid during adolescence and calcium after maturity. The amount of food they need will also change constantly. Natural Farming emphasizes the right use of the right material, at the right stage, in the right quantity.
Talk only with results
Natural Farming is absent of four most notorious works in farming. First, weeding is unnecessary because it is controlled with wild grass mulching. Second, tillage and maintaining expensive machine is unnecessary because we let the nature till itself. Third, chemical fertilizer is unnecessary because fertilizers are produced sufficiently on the soil itself. Fourth, pesticide is unnecessary because insects are controlled naturally and a healthy ecology will drop in the occurrence of pests.
No theory surpasses the results. Natural Farming talks only with the results. It would not have been so long-lived and wide-spread were it only a collection of good-to-the-ear stories. We are receiving email from our Thai friends that their Natural Farming chickens did not get any bird flu; we have Chinese friends who are happy to drop the production cost; we have Natural Farming being introduced in TV in Malaysia; we have Japanese big farmers using NF for big profit; we have African friends that use NF to improve their living. Governments, NGOs, non-profit organizations and of course farmers are coming for training.
We are destroying and undermining the very planet we stand. The suffering of living creatures arising therefore is ongoing; be it visible or invisible, apparent or latent. I have a small hope that this Natural Farming method will contribute to the alleviation of poverty, disease, environmental destruction, rural devastation, food hazard, and life abuse worldwide. At the age of seventy, it is my wish to see Natural Farming act as a living tool for humanity. Let’s do it together.
Natural Farming Philosophy
Natural Farming Methods