Shumei Natural Farm is sited in a large field on part of Yatesbury Biodynamic Farm, near Cherhill. It is a demonstation farm run by Shinya and Hiro who were trained in Shumei Natural Agriculture in Japan, before being sponsored to come to the UK.
This type of 'Natural Agriculture' seems to depend on the careful selection and planting of healthy seed so that the plants can adapt to their environment over successive seasons and improve their resilience to the changing climate. This means that this type of farming does not involve the use of any inputs (e.g. fertilisers, manure, pesticides, hybrid seed) but rather is the practice of building a balanced partnership with the soil, plants and other living things on and around a farm. Compost is rarely used and then only to 'condition the soil' in order to improve its water-holding capacity.
Shinya and Hiro also spend time meditating and giving thanks for the earth's bounty in their Mt Fuji garden.
Shinya explaining to Barney, how they select and store their seed
This approach contrasts sharply with both permaculture and organic agriculture, which are concerned with the creation of a closed system in which essential nutrients are recycled via regular applications of compost and manure.
However, Natural Farming practitioners do recognise that Natural Agriculture cannot survive in the conventional farm economy—they simply can’t compete on a dollar-per-pound basis (Shinya and Hiro receive allowances from their sponsor and they pay their rent in vegetables). So in Natural Agriculture farming, consumers and farmers are invited to work together. They can organize cooperatives to produce and purchase local products. Working with the farmer, consumers can organize sales and distribution, and educate others about Natural Agriculture to attract new members to the cooperatives. They are also encouraged to alter their diets to eat locally, and help in educating the community on how to eat seasonally.
After the farm tour and 'question and answer' session, Shinya and Hiro arranged for us to take part in a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. We were also shown how to write our names in Japanese calligraphy.
Lorna waiting for her bowl of ceremonial tea...
Rachel and Lizzie learning how to write their names...
You can buy Shinya and Hiro's vegetables at the next Marlborough Communities' Market.