Here is our story till today: Five Years of Natural Systems Farming at Aman Bagh: 2012-2017. And here is a presentation on our natural farming practices in the spirit of sharing for organic farmers, aspiring farmers and mindful consumers: A presentation on Practices of Natural Systems Farming at Aman Bagh, 2017.
Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a true sage in the Asian tradition, I have written about Gurudev Tagore and Fukuoka here elsewhere on this website. Fukuoka-san’s thinking on farming was nothing short of revolutionary as his thoughts were about living and not only agriculture. He lived an uncomplicated material life amidst nature as a beacon to the world. On agriculture, he simultaneously discarded the accumulated debris of farming methods of ancient civilisations based on ploughing and monoculture crops, and Western ‘scientific’ methods of ever increasing production simply for food through the use of a vast range and quantities of human made chemicals. I read his classic One Straw Revolution (1978) while in college in 1980 and didn’t quite understand much though I am glad to inform the reader this book is as deep as it is thin. I also have his The Natural Way of Farming : The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy (1985). Both are available in inexpensive Indian paperbacks. Then, here is one video and extracts I made from re-reading One Straw Revolution multiple times over the decades that you might want to experience.
One Straw Revolution has a lot to share with those willing to listen. Larry Korn lived for 2 years on Fukuoka’s farm in Japan, here he speaks to us in a 2016 documentary. You can also watch him in a series of three YouTube videos posted after his passing in 2019:
“People associate natural farming with a technique. It’s not the technique, it’s the view. Once you have that view … you enter into nature and participate from the inside instead of as a visitor from the outside, then you’ll know exactly what to do … a lot of it depends on trial and error, that you try something and see how nature responds, and that helps you to move along to figure out what to do. …… The idea of observation from the natural farming point of view, is more of an interaction. You are not observing, you are actually living in nature and you are getting to know your place. … you become so intimately connected with a place that it becomes an extension of yourself. Mr. Fukuoka believes that natural farming proceeds from the spiritual health of the individual. He considers the healing of the land and the purification of the human spirit to be one process, and he proposes a way of life and a way of farming in which this process can take place.”
Wendell Berry, was born in 1934, by when agriculture in his native USA had become industrialised. There were, however, holdouts of a past family agricultural community life in many rural areas and corporate control and chemicalized poisoning of the soil, though significant, was not as overwhelming as it is in 2023. Berry is unusually a poet and farmer, and amongst the almost-extinct species of American rural voices who speak to their conflicted present from a pre-industrial Western civilisational worldview. His prose is poetic, and you will find yourself nodding in agreement when he shares the organic connection between the sacred, all of nature, the communities and the place of the individual. I have read his The Art of the Commonplace (2002) – my summary”the maximum well-being from the minimum of consumption”. Bringing it to The Table, (2009) On Farming and Food. Here are some articles you will enjoy – Eating is an Agricultural Act, 1990. For Love of Place 2018. Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age 2022.
Farming for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. “People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they
Permaculture (from ‘Permanent Agriculture’, I first saw this phrase in a 1911 book written by FH King after he visited China, Kore and Japan) is “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.” as defined by Bill Mollison, co-originator of this concept. I am increasingly attracted to the holistic permaculture framework – care for people, care for the earth and return your surpluses – and its many implementations around the world. The implementations within India seem to be few, and mostly around vegetable and fruit growing. Great start, though. Every new system needs time to take root in the local soil and conditions; and India has scores of environmental micro-systems and unique challenges in each. Permaculture seems to be well suited to India’s small-holding farms (FYI, the average farm size in India is subsistence – only slightly more than an acre per family), and our problems of food security as it is based on a family feeding itself a diversity of fruits, vegetables, other crops using natural principles. Mollison is also a provocative proponent of dropping wheat and rice from our diets seeing it uses energy to cook, and instead moving to eating equally nutritious fruits like banana, coconut, papaya; and nuts. A permaculture diet. Hmmm.
We need documented stories of successful implementation and practical guide books of farms in India (I mean farms that grow cereals, lentils, as well as fruits and vegetables) using permaculture principles that adopt to traditional peasant knowledge. As I study this – read, meet permaculturists, visit practicing sites – there is a lot that natural & pre-chemical traditional farming in India shares with permaculture, but the latter’s focus on food and plant diversity stands out.
Get a hold of Bill Mollison’s 1988 book Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, it is the definitive book on this system. Here is some reading I have been through:
New Agriculture a Permaculture point of view by Venkat. Very simple and illuminating. English. Venkat was the originator of Permaculture thinking in India, his disciple Narsanna Kopulla runs an NGO that works with Andhra farmers and is perhaps the only permaculture farm in India.
Essence of Permaculture, by co-founder David Holmgren
Mollison Trees – Guardians of the Earth
Other resources on Organic and Natural Farming
Panchgavya – 2 Recipes in English
Bhaskar Save at Kalpavruksha, Gujarat
Navdanya is the leading Indian ” … network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 17 states in India.” They do amazing stuff to protect our traditional farming and seed heritage. It is led by larger-than-life environmentalist Vandana Shiva, and we have bought organic home provisions from them since 2003.
Organic Farmers Association of India (OFAI). Based, of all places, in Sunny Goa. Indefatigable environmentalist activist Claude Alvares heads this institution; he edits the annual OFAI Organic Farming Handbook which is a loadstone of knowledge and information on organic farming from experts across India and the world. “The Other India Bookstore” in Mapusa, Goa has a range of books and other resources on organic farming that proved to be of help when I commenced my education on organic farming methods in 2012. Write to them, they are delightfully helpful.
I Say Organic: retails organic produce in the National Capital Region, on-line and they deliver home; and this includes what we have excess at Aman Bagh. It is managed by personable young entrepreneurs Ashmeet & Aakansha Kapoor.
2015-Oct-01 Rajinder Chaudhary Rohtak Kudrati Kheti Manual, in Hindi. This is a good effort to put together in one place of all that can be found on organic farming in India (from progressive organic farming practitioners in the West and South of India). You will need to create your own rhythm in operations and not do a bit of everything. This guide can easily be given to your farm hands to read – at least one member of your organic team should be educated till the 12th grade and be willing to learn. Educated people are super critical to enhancing your agricultural productivity, and should be open to change !
Sustainable Agricultural Practices 2013 by Green Foundation, Bangalore. English. Basic, and quite relevant to Indian conditions.
Tropical Vegetable Gardening Manual 2013. A useful base to build your vegetable garden. I have not found a well written base document on which to build my plan for vegetables at Aman Bagh, and this 85 page booklet (though written by an American) is surprisingly useful for some Indian conditions. It is simply written without jargon, unpretentious, and has lots of accurate and useful detail.
Indian Vegetable Sowing Chart. I used this as a base to create my own sowing chart to plant vegetables for each of the three seasons in Haryana: Rabi, Zayed, Kharif.
Organic Farming in Hindi this video by Rajiv Dixit on organic farming (in Hindi) is useful to explain the why and how of organic fertilizers and pesticides to Hindi vernacular farm hands. Just so you know, Dixit was a rabid right-wing Hindutva demagogue, and his YouTube video’s are a mix of virulent nationalism and imagined conspiracies. I dislike his views on almost all subjects other than this one, but I have something to learn from everyone.
What Farmers Really Need by Prem Singh & Johan D’hulster. Prem Singh (b. 1964) is founder of the Humane Agrarian Centre, Badokhar Khurd (Banda, UP). He is in search of co-existential methods of agriculture which sustains nature, soil and the environment. Johan D’hulster (b. 1955) is the founder and farmer of the organic vegetable farm Akelei (Schriek, Belgium). He is keenly interested in investigating various types of sustainable agricultural methods practised all over the world, including India.
http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/introduction-organic-natural-sustainable-agriculture-presentations-south-asia-conference: Here is an introduction to organic, natural, sustainable agriculture – Presentations from the South Asia Conference on “Outstanding Organic Agriculture Techniques”, Bangalore organised by OFAI (2009). Interesting.
June 2015 – natural farming knowledge from the USA
Organic Production Useful videos, Webinars and textual resources free on the Internet. “eXtension is an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the best land-grant university minds across America. eXtension connects knowledge consumers with knowledge providers – experts who know their subject matter inside out.”
Soil Fertility An excellent basic definition of soil fertility from the University of Minnesota, USA; and how to ensure it at your farm. It also has a very useful list (at the end of the article) of websites with information on organic crop production. Very useful.
http://rodaleinstitute.org/learn/webinars/soil-biology/ A very useful presentation on soil biology. “Covers the basics of soil biology, what it is “in there” and why it matters. Includes details on the carbon and nitrogen cycles and the soil food web. (Excellent for high school students, good for all audiences)” . Rodale is a leading organic farm in the USA for 60 years “For more than sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.”
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) in the USA – this supported by the USDA, so not organic – but all farmers need to be educated, not matter from where the scientific backing to our sustainable beliefs come from. SARE has lots of very useful information on all aspects of farming specially on understanding and building healthy soils. The site has audio webinar recordings, many useful books and videos. Browse, and enjoy. example is http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Multimedia/American-Society-of-Agronomy-Cover-Crops-Webinar-Series/Cover-Crops-Soil-Health-Principles-and-Maximizing-Yields
YouTube eOrganic Video channel, with lots of videos on organic production. Lovely.
Here are some more resources on Soil health : www.dakotalakes.com, www.agroecology.org, Soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soilbiology/biology
You can Google soil scientists Ray Archuleta (Agronomist, NRCS, USA) and Kris Nichols, Mark Liebig (both ARS, Mandan, North Dakota USA) and find many videos of them speaking on the why and how of healthy soils and microorganisms, and a ‘cocktail’ of cover crops and manuring to rebuild soil health. They see soil as an ecosystem, where billions of living being thrive – not simply a source of growing plants.
assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.”
Agroforestry practices are well documented in this wonderfully drawn Cartoon ebook “An Illustrated Guide to Agroforestry: a short and simple guidebook”. Written originally in Spanish, it was translated to English in 2019 … the most wonderful surprise is that it is available in Hindi ! You will love both the content and the design. I recommend readers not being overwhelmed by the process and the techniques of any system in vogue today, instead understand the view of mimicking nature.
Agroforestry by Ernst Gotsch: Here are YouTube videos on this intrepid Swiss farmer who revived hundreds of acres of degraded forest land in Brazil through his unique method of ‘syntropic’ farming in the mid-1980s. Thanks to Patanjali Jha of Vaanya, MP for this stunning introduction to large scale thinking.
“Life in Syntropy” is a short film from ‘Agenda Gotsch” made specially to be presented at COP21 – Paris. This film put together some of the most remarkable experiences in Syntropic Agriculture, with brand new images and interviews.
Da horta à floresta – From garden to forest
Syntropic Agroforestry in Spain with Ernst Götsch
On this Ground Everything Grows – Neste Chão Tudo Dá
“In mid-2007 we went to Bahia to see the work of the farmer and researcher Ernst Gotsch. The young man from Switzerland who believed that Brazil was the country of his dreams was established in an area of degraded land in the southern state the early 1980s. Since then began a systematic recovery of soil and vegetation. Today 30 years after his farm is considered one of the most fertile and biodiverse region. Ernst developed a method of planting and management that seeks to imitate the processes of natural succession of species occurring in forests. His goal, as well as natural environments is to increase the quantity and quality of life in all its forms. As a result we see what we call agroforestry, a system that combines agricultural crops and forest ecosystem bringing benefits pro and pro producer.”
Ecological Agriculture In India: Scientific Evidence by ASHA
2017-02-Oct Natural Farming at Aman Bagh 2012-2017
A 13.21 minute commentary in Hindi 2018 on ‘Weed Control in Organic Farming : Jaivik Kheti Mein Kharpatvar Prabandhan’ Dr. Arun Kumar Sharma.
thank you for sharing your ‘organic’ reading list… shalaum,
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New additions quite useful. Could we have more material from India as that would be more relevant.
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Any contact details
I visit you’re institute
Thanks for sharing these valuable resources!
Thank you for sharing such valuable information. This is very helpful for us budding permies. 🙂