Over the weekend of May 18 and May 19, thirteen very curious and enthusiastic gardeners arrived at the Shumei Natural Agriculture farm in Yatesbury. The farm hosts one learning programme day each month. The course lasts for one day. However, after featuring on the BBC Radio 4 programme “On Your Farm”, the interest in Natural Agriculture was so overwhelming, the farm manager, Shinya Imahashi, decided to provide two learning course days in May. He, his assistant, Colleen McDuling, and three of the previous learning course participants had been interviewed at the end of April and the programme was aired on Sunday May 5.
On Saturday May 18 the farm hosted five eager participants and on Sunday May 19, eight interested persons came to learn about this new way of farming and gardening. The participants came from as far afield as North London, Croydon, Shropshire, Dorset, Somerset, Hertfordshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire. They had all listened to the Radio 4 programme and were inspired to sign up for the course and learn more. All were active gardeners with vegetable and fruit allotments or backyard garden plots.
Both days were identical. After introductions, Shinya presented a lecture on the principles of Natural Agriculture, its origins and history, the benefits and the integrative philosophy behind Natural Agriculture. He showed some videos, and highlighted the success of the Natural Agriculture project in Zambia. Following on from this lecture, he and Colleen McDuling took participants on a tour of the five-acre demonstration farm where 40 different vegetable and fruit varieties are grown. A sumptuous vegan lunch made from Natural Agriculture fresh produce was then provided. After lunch, Colleen McDuling gave a short presentation of the practicalities of Natural Agriculture after which Shinya presented a lecture on soil health and maintenance. He explained the dangers of using fertilizers. At the end of the course, small gift bags of Natural Agriculture fresh produce were presented to all participants.
The course was received with huge appreciation by all who attended. There was much lively interactive discussion throughout the day where this new and futuristic way of gardening and agriculture was spoken about. All participants of the course were fascinated that crops are not rotated, fertilizers are not used and so-called “pests” are never killed. And, of course, the energy test was received with much lively and surprised reaction.
Natural Agriculture makes no use of agrochemicals, pesticides, animal manures, fertilizers or anything artificial. The method is based on overriding respect for the soil and the environment and is strictly veganic.
Report by Colleen McDuling.