The basis of Natural Agriculture is to work in harmony with the soil for the benefit of the plant, for the well-being of those who eat the food, and ultimately for the whole environment. One of the goals and commitments of Natural Agriculture farmers is to bring mental, physical and spiritual benefit to people, whether they are ordinarily healthy or facing health problems as well as mental and emotional challenges. The ingestion of food grown by Natural Agriculture brings a balance to the bodily systems that ultimately enhances one’s whole well-being.
Thus Natural Agriculture involves more than agricultural technique; it means changing the way one thinks about nature. It means relating to the natural world through one’s heart, not only one’s head. And it means listening, respecting and responding to, rather than dictating, the needs of nature. It leads to the development of a lifestyle that creates a harmony with oneself, one’s community and environment.
Through the practice of Natural Agriculture the producers and consumers of food develop a unique relationship, based on a support system of deep appreciation and gratitude. The exchange of gratitude within this community becomes a key element to its success. Indeed, consumers suddenly realize their relationship, through the farmer, to the soil, seed and subsequent agricultural product. Similarly, as the farmer works the soil, he or she is mindful of the consumers who will eventually eat the produce. American writer and photographer Lisa Hamilton studied Natural Agriculture for 3 years. In the introduction to her book Farming to Create Heaven on Earth (2007) she describes Shumei’s approach as “a new way of thinking about food. … soil, farmer and consumer are equal partners. No longer is the soil considered lifeless, the consumer dutiless, and the farmer wholly responsible for coaxing life from the former and serving the latter. The farmer tends the soil and grows the plants. The consumer participates, appreciates, and educates. The process behind eating changes from being an assembly line to a true food system”.
Hamilton sees the transformation inherent in Natural Agriculture on three levels: farming practices, how we think about food, and as “a practice that can guide every aspect of life. This way of seeing the ground beneath your feet and the food on your plate extends in rings outward, and eventually you can apply it to everything, everwhere. The goals are health and happiness, the tools are love and gratitude”.
At its heart, Natural Agriculture is the practice of integrating people into Earth’s wondrous living systems. Rooted in the understanding that all life is interconnected, this way of farming addresses ordinary human needs and recognises that these include looking after the ordinary needs of the larger world around us.