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Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security Hardcover – May 28, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1603584180 ISBN-10: 1603584188

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (May 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603584188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603584180
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Kirkus Reviews-
From the late author of bestseller The One Straw Revolution (1978) comes a similar book about a philosophical approach to natural farming."The fundamental concept of a natural farm," writes Fukuoka (The Natural Way of Farming, 1985, etc.), "begins with intuitively grasping nature's original form, where many varieties of plants and animals live together as a harmonious whole, joyfully and in mutual benefit." In this English translation of the author's last work (first published in Japan in 1996), he decries the "indiscriminate deforestation and large-scale agriculture carried out in order to support the materialistic cultures of the developed countries." This process has created a condition called "desertification," the inability of the soil to grow anything. Because humans have lost their connection with nature, Fukuoka advocates foregoing harmful modern methods of farming in favor of a simpler approach. Based primarily on the success of his farm in Japan, the author believes the solution lies in aerial distribution of a large variety of plants via clay seed pellets, the use of cover crops, and a no-tilling approach to the soil. By seeding a wide variety of species in the desert, nature will select those plants best suited for a particular location. These plants will flourish, drawing water from deep within the earth and thereby allowing other plants and trees to prosper. Taking his philosophy to Africa, India and the United States, among other places, Fukuoka demonstrated that, given sufficient time, seeding fallow earth with vegetables, plants and trees created a lush setting. More a spiritual analysis of farming methods than a hands-on approach, the book still provides viable and simple solutions to the world's increased need for productive land. An enlightened method for reclaiming the barren soils of the world.

"Masanobu Fukuoka ran a course on natural farming, and gave our Howard lecture at Navdanya's biodiversity farm in the Doon valley of India, and we even have a cottage named the Fukuoka hut. He was a teacher ahead of his time. 'Sowing seeds in the desert' is what all of humanity has to learn to do, whether it is in economic desert created by Wall Street, or an ecological desert created by globalized corporate agriculture."--Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science Technology & Ecology

"Distilling what he has gathered from a lifetime of learning from nature, Masanobu Fukuoka offers us his gentle philosophy and a wealth of practical ideas for using natural farming to restore a damaged planet. Sowing Seeds in the Desert will persuade any reader that the imperiled living world is our greatest teacher, and inspire them to care for it as vigorously as Fukuoka has."--Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden

"This book is a bombshell. Forget the gentle and retiring farmer of The One-Straw Revolution fame, replaced now by a flaming, world-travelling revolutionary. To achieve the kind of natural farming that can avoid worldwide collapse, Masanobu Fukuoka bluntly and fearlessly insists that we must first reject traditional ideas about God, the after life, accepted economic systems--especially capitalism--much of current agricultural thinking including organic farming, and even parts of science which he says are based on mistaken notions about the connection between cause and effect. Once we return to a way of life dictated by nature, not institutional religions, he says, we can apply his unorthodox farming methods to make the deserts bloom and the green fields stay lush without much expense or even labor involved.Be prepared to be mystified, irritated, shocked, and maybe even, if you persevere to the end, enlightened and encouraged by this trail-blazing book. Disagree with Fukuoka's provocative pronouncements at your own risk. Some of what he predicted in this book, originally written in Japanese in the 1990s has already happened, especially the collapse of the Japanese economy in recent years and the spread of deserts throughout the world."--Gene Logsdon, author of A Sanctuary of Trees

"From our first meeting with Masanobu Fukuoka Sensei in the late 1970's at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, he has served as a primary guide, teacher, and inspiration in the engaged practice of organic farming and Zen meditation. Now with Sowing Seeds in the Desert, Fukuoka Sensei's teaching of Natural Farming continues to grow, sending deep roots down into the terrain of global restoration and food security for a hungry world. This wonderful book is to be celebrated and savored for its grounded, encouraging wisdom."--Wendy Johnson, author of Gardening at the Dragon's Gate

"Fans of Fukuoka's The One-Straw Revolution will be delighted by Sowing Seeds in the Desert, his last book. It is a rich treasure trove detailing how his own philosophy of farming evolved and how he decided to apply what he learned on his own farm in Japan to other parts of the world. His insights into the tragedies of taking Western, industrial agriculture to places like Africa to 'enrich the national economy,' and his alternative approach of working with indigenous farmers to enable them to become self-sufficient, is instructive for all of us."--Frederick Kirschenmann, Author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer Philosopher

"This book is not a breath of fresh air, it's a howling gale from the East. It challenges us to think outside our normal, rational frames and venture into a whole new way of relating to spirituality, the earth, and the growing of food. As I read, I was tempted to pick holes in Fukuoka's prescriptions for greening the world's deserts, but I kept coming back to the inescapable fact that he farmed his own land according to these principles over many years and produced a lot of food."--Patrick Whitefield, author of The Earth Care Manual

The vision of the late Japanese farmer and philosopher Fukuoka, a pioneer in natural farming techniques and author of the now classic The One-Straw Revolution (1978), extends far beyond agriculture. In his final book, a far-reaching treatise on ‘earth stewardship,’ he considers dragonflies, Darwin, and even a meeting with Einstein’s niece as he reflects on the best possible future for human society. At times Fukuoka’s prose can be striking in its simplicity as when he writes, ‘In nature there are no beneficial or harmful insects,’ and furthermore, ‘this is a human construct akin to saying the right hand is good and the left hand is bad.’ Fukuoka never wastes a word or thought, insisting the reader consider all aspects of how we grow our food everywhere in the world and how the food industry manipulates supply and demand for gross profit in ways both economically and socially damaging. Fukuoka’s techniques have been and still are world-changing; the challenge now is to continue practicing them without the master here to lead the way.

ForeWord Reviews-
Small-scale and urban farming as well as sustainable living and organic food purchasing are so prevalent right now that these practices are moving from a foodie trend to a fundamental shift in our food system. One of the people to thank for that momentum is Masanobu Fukuoka, whose The One-Straw Revolution became a must-read for organic farmers and their supporters around the world. Before his death in 2008, Fukuoka spent decades working on natural farming techniques that he felt could benefit the world. He didn’t plow his field, use fertilizer, or flood his rice fields, in keeping with the methods traditional to many indigenous cultures. Commonly referred to as ‘Do-Nothing Farming,’ his techniques are part of a wider philosophy about respecting nature’s own principles and rhythms. The success of his work sent Fukuoka from his small village in Japan to speaking engagements across the world, where he spent a great deal of time addressing issues of limited resources in areas like Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. In this, his last major book, Fukuoka draws from those experiences to create, once again, a timeless work that has the ability to create a revolution in agriculture. Beyond Fukuoka’s important philosophy, his book is a lyrical, lovely valentine to nature. He’s passionate about bringing other people to the near-enlightenment state in which he lived, where every single leaf moved him to appreciation.  Expertly argued and backed by experience, anecdotes, and simple logic, Fukuoka’s last work shines just as brightly as his first.

Publishers Weekly-
Renowned Japanese agriculturist and philosopher Fukuoka’s (The One-Straw Revolution) final work calls on modern-day farmers to reconsider their methods and heed the needs of the land. Navigating work with international organizations—particularly in Africa, South Asia, and the United States—he illuminates regional disparities in environmental and agricultural thought and practice. Through trial-and-error and years of acute observation, Fukuoka developed a pioneering vision to ‘avoid unnecessary work, especially work that was created as an adverse side effect of previous actions.’ He describes these misguided experiments and failures, such as leaving an orchard completely on its own, as ‘not natural farming; it was abandonment.’ In clarifying popular misconceptions about organic and natural farming, he advises that we must not focus on cash crops, because ‘there is no good or bad among life-forms on earth.’ Only by the co-existence of myriad micro-organisms and vegetation will we be able to preserve and maintain our land. More important, the best farming was simple, ‘rather than the modern approach of applying increasingly complex techniques to remake nature entirely for the benefit of human beings.’ Though elimination of mechanization might be tough for modern agriculturalists to swallow, Fukuoka’s last message provides a spiritually and environmentally enriching alternative to the farming conditions we know today.

About the Author

Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a farmer and philosopher who was born and raised on the Japanese island of Shikoku. He studied plant pathology and spent several years working as a customs inspector in Yokohama. While working there, at the age of 25, he had an inspiration that changed his life. He decided to quit his job, return to his home village, and put his ideas into practice by applying them to agriculture.

Over the next sixty-five years he worked to develop a system of natural farming that demonstrated the insight he was given as a young man, believing that it could be of great benefit to the world. He did not plow his fields, used no agricultural chemicals or prepared fertilizers, and did not flood his rice fields as farmers have done in Asia for centuries, and yet his yields equaled or surpassed the most productive farms in Japan.

In 1975 he wrote The One-Straw Revolution, a best-selling book that described his life’s journey, his philosophy, and farming techniques. This book has been translated into more than twenty-five languages and has helped make Mr. Fukuoka a leader in the worldwide sustainable agriculture movement. He continued farming until shortly before his death in 2008, at the age of ninety-five.

After The One-Straw Revolution was published in English, Mr. Fukuoka traveled to Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States. His interest turned to rehabilitating the deserts of the world using his natural farming techniques. Mr. Fukuoka is also the author of The Natural Way of Farming and The Road Back to Nature. In 1988 he received the Magsaysay Award, often referred to as the “Nobel of Asia,” for Public Service.

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Customer Reviews

Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.
Many of the thoughts expressed by author Masanobu Fukuoka in Sowing Seeds in the Desert are truly paradigm shifting.
Charles Burr
If you allow it to, this book will inspire you to do just these things.
Katherine Bracken Ward

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Bracken Ward on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was thrilled to see this book released. This book contains the last writings of Masanobu Fukuoka and they are about the desert regions of the world. I am from a long line of subsistence farmers on two continents and, as far as I know, the only one who has been a high desert grower. One Straw Revolution set my course as an ecological gardener/farmer in the high desert of CA over 25 years ago. This book is helping me realize why some of my experiments worked (and others didn't). To see desert lands addressed by Fukuoka in a way that makes sense to me as a micro-scale farmer is invaluable.

On the personal side, I was able to take principles from One Straw Revolution and customize them to my desert environment and help feed my family and friends. From Sowing Seeds in the Desert, I am learning ways to continue growing in a marginal environment. The first book was a great inspiration. This current book is a great encourager.

On a larger scale, our world is running short of arable land and our groundwater across the planet is being depleted rapidly. There isn't time for another ice age to lay down more deep wells of fossil groundwater. Honestly, we all - from backyard gardeners to commercial farmers - ought to be learning how to grow using water and the land with more wisdom. We need to learn to sit with the land, learn from it, and produce food in ways that make sense for our regions of the world. Along with Fukuoka, we would do well to look at indigenous ways of growing from our particular regions. If you allow it to, this book will inspire you to do just these things. In some places, this book is so strongly innovative that you may wonder - will this really work? I am absolutely betting my farm on Fukuoka. These principles have been working for us for many years.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Charles Burr on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is terrific. A worthy follow-up to The One-Straw Revolution. Many of the thoughts expressed by author Masanobu Fukuoka in Sowing Seeds in the Desert are truly paradigm shifting. This book has the potential to redirect people's everyday and spiritual lives in a very positive direction. For those seeking to return to the center and become more grounded, start with this book. For those who have already read many, many books, I suggest you restart with this one. Sowing Seeds in the Desert picks up where Fukuoka's previous books left off and fills them out nicely.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert could be considered the "Gettysburg Address" of the environmental, natural farming and earth spirituality movements because it is so clear, concise and accessible. Chapter 1 says more in 15 pages than most books about philosophy say in 500 pages. The foundations of Western thought and philosophy are left in tatters by the end of an equally efficient Chapter 2. Even Plato's "Analogy of the Cave" is is neatly replaced by Fukuoka's "Cave of the Intellect." When you are finished with this book it seems as though the foundation of everything you were taught to be the truth is lying in pieces in front of you.

Deserts left in civilization's footsteps are discussed directly and as a metaphor for the condition of modern society. As a practitioner of natural farming and permaculture myself, I can see that no scientist can solve the environmental challenges we face today. Only someone who sees nature directly can set a successful path forward. This is not so much a book about natural farming techniques. It is about identifying what nature is at its core and applying that to how we live. Fukuoka has done that for us in this book.

"In the place where there is nothing, everything exists"

Chuck Burr
Ashland, Oregon
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kathlyn Pihl on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I thought the book was about seeds and resurrecting life from damaged lands, but it gave me a gift I couldn't have hoped for. It's really about a shift in consciousness. The translation is so unpretentious and lucid, it's as though the natural consciousness of being shines right through the paragraphs. The "natural mind", as Mr. Fukuoka called it, became perfectly obvious to me, something I have simultaneously lived by and overlooked all my life. The difference in perspective is subtle, but has made a big shift in my approach to every challenge I face.

Yes, it's a balm to the pain of watching the plunder of the land, of seeing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and so on. I'm encouraged to undertake small steps to re-green the space behind my back yard. I shared it with a friend and she "got it". She loved the last chapter about the progress people have made in our own neighborhood. She's as jazzed as I am.

The pictures, the prose, even the paper it's printed on, are a pleasure to hold in my hands. Thank you Mr. Fukuoka!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Barrett TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you've read "One Straw Revolution" then you have some idea of what to expect in this book. For those who say 'no new information' I wonder if they read beyond the introduction and first chapter. Though the theme is reclaiming the desert, there is a lot of Fukuoka-san's personal beliefs and philosophy interjected throughout.

When Fukuoka is discussing the re-seeding of the deserts, he is meaning re-seeding the deserts created by man's misuse of the land. The examples of this would be the San Joaquin valley in California, northeast Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia), and parts of Europe that have had the soil stripped bare of nutrients due to centuries of misuse.

Fukuoka-san wrote this book later than his first. What this means is that he had several years more experience and time for reflection before writing "Sowing Seeds in the Desert". Mainly he had finally traveled outside of Japan for the first time (right after the US publication of "One Straw Revolution"). Seeing the state of agriculture first hand in other countries gave Fukuoka-san more reason to ponder the future of humanity in regards to food production.

Many of his ideas are far fetched, but the basis for his theories and philosophy are well rooted. He quotes Descartes, Plato, and even the Bible in addition to Buddhist and Shinto beliefs. His philosophy never really comes off as contrived, in one chapter he even discusses with disdain a fraudulent faith healer from Kobe who visited his farm.

Fukuoka-san's work is not for everyone. Those who enjoy being blind to the looming crisis in food and water supplies probably wouldn't enjoy this book.
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