Vegan Nature Farming

The following is an excerpt for Dr. Cousen’s book Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine 

In Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet and Conscious Eating, the theme is using the human diet as a tool to advance consciousness and evolution. This book, Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine, details how a raw-food, low-glycemic, organic, vegan diet is the best form of nutrition for humans to optimize health and longevity and to expand consciousness. At the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, our Vegan Nature Farming program is an outgrowth of this evolution.

On the continuum of organic farming and authentic farming, we have gone even one step further by developing a Vegan Nature Farming program. In this vegan farming method we employ Effective Microorganisms (EM) to energize the soil so that it delivers the highest amount of energy into our fruits and vegetables.

Vegan nature farming originated in 1935 when Mokichi Okada, a Japanese philosopher and spiritual teacher, began to develop a method of organic food production that he called “Nature Farming.” At the time, chemicals were being introduced into agriculture in Japan. Okada recognized that these methods were contrary to the patterns of nature and created more problems than they solved. In particular, Okada believed that the use of toxic chemicals contaminated food and that chemical methods of farming produced foods that were inferior in nutrition to Nature Farming methods. He demonstrated the principles of Nature Farming to his followers, who took up the method and continued to spread it after he left his body in 1955.

Nature Farming is based on keenly observing natural ecosystems, such as forests and prairies, and then imitating and adapting the pattern of nature to the situation of human food production. Okada observed that in nature, “living soil” is the key to the health and stability of forests and prairies. He advocated that his followers imitate nature by seeking to create the conditions for living soil on their farms. Natural compost, composed principally or exclusively of plant materials, is the key input in Nature Farming. Mulching the soil with plant debris and patterning the farm layout based on the models of natural forests and prairies were additional techniques.

The Nature Farming method received a great boost in the late 1980s when Professor Teruo Higa, Ph.D., of the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan, shared his amazing discovery of “Effective Microorganisms” (EM) with the proponents of Nature Farming. Dr. Higa began his research on microorganisms in the early 1960s, discovering that certain groups in combination were beneficial and “effective” in their ability to change the microbial characteristics of soil. By “effective” it is meant that these microorganisms were able to alter the dynamics of the microbial ecosystems of soil, water, plant surfaces, and other environments, and to enhance the growth and activities of the beneficial components, which led to the decline of activity of the detrimental components. Dr.Higa realized that this was a great tool that could have many uses in agriculture and the environment, where negative practices had created microbial imbalances. In the context of Nature Farming, EM proved to be the key to creating “living soil” in a reliable and predictable manner. EM also helped to solve many practical problems in transitioning farms to sustainable organic methods.

In 1998, Nature Farming and EM were introduced to me and the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center by John Phillips, who had been working with Nature Farming since 1988, and with Dr. Higa since 1990. In December of 2001, John joined the staff of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center to work more closely with us in developing a model for a Vegan Nature Farming method using EM.

As mentioned, Nature Farming takes its model from nature itself. Natural ecosystems can have very high productivity of plant and animal life, yet they are self-sustaining. Indeed, one characteristic of such systems is that they are always naturally accumulating fertility. Also, they are naturally resistant to pests and diseases and can recover easily from fires, earth movements, windstorms, and other damaging events. This is in stark contrast to most farming systems, where productivity is continually threatened by loss of fertility, insects, diseases, weeds, and other pests, and where fire, wind damage, and other catastrophes can cause the system to fail totally.

The basis of Nature Farming is an appreciation for the power of “living soil,” which is the key factor that makes the system sustainable and resilient. Living soil is created through the interaction of plants and the life of the soil, especially the microorganisms, earthworms, mites, and countless other creatures. In the forests and prairies, living soil is created by the accumulation of plant debris from season to season. Plants provide the food that serves as the primary production of these ecosystems, thereby supporting the extended food chains that develop there. Next to the plants, the microorganisms and other soil life are the most critical to the stability and productivity of the system. Microorganisms recycle the plant material and release nutrients to further promote plant growth. Microorganisms form symbiotic relationships with plant root systems and help provide nutrients, such as phosphorus, to plants in exchange for exudates from the plant root. Animals, from earthworms and mites on up, dwell and feed upon the soil-plant complex. This is the natural scheme of things, and humans evolved from this ecological base.

Indeed, E.B. Szekely, one of the earliest and greatest holistic physicians of the twentieth century, proposed that humans originally evolved from a subspecies he called Homo sapiens sylvanus, and the forests were our natural home. Szekely also proposed that the raw foods of the forests—the fruits, herbs, and vegetables—were our natural diet. When humans existed in harmony with the forest on their natural diet, life spans were much longer, and humans lived free of debilitating diseases. This is the true paradise lost!

Szekely suggested that we could return to this paradise by creating agrarian communities that are independent, co-operating, and involved in producing an abundance of plants that can be used in a raw-food vegan diet to promote health, longevity, and conscious evolution. This is what we are creating at the Tree of Life by developing Vegan Nature Farming and Rainbow Green Live- Food Cuisine.

To create a Vegan Nature Farming system to produce our live-food diet,we eliminated all use of organic fertilizers that contain animal by-products from the slaughter industry, such as bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, fish emulsion, and similar products. Essentially, this step has been the approach since the beginning, but we have learned that many blended organic fertilizers also contain some form of animal product as a source of nitrogen. So it is important to look at the ingredient lists more closely. Organic food can be produced without using animal wastes and by-products, and for some vegans, this is distinctly preferred. Vegan farming also provides protection from the possible problem of “mad cow disease.”

Many plant materials used for composting are now suspect because of GMOs, so cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, and soybean meal, for example, are less desirable sources of nutrients for organic production than they used to be, and must be sourced from organic producers who avoid GMOs. Even hay, so commonly used as mulch in organic farming, now must be sourced from organic producers not only because of GMOs, but because the latest herbicides being used in conventional farming are more resistant to natural breakdown in the environment and are causing herbicide damage to crops, even in cases where the hay is only used as an ingredient in making compost.

Composting kitchen waste from an organic, vegan kitchen recycles nutrients that can be used for vegan food production. At the Tree of Life we employ EM, Dr. Higa’s special blend of beneficial microorganisms, to inoculate and energize compost and to make compost teas and vegan organic sprays for crops and soils.

Vegan farming does not necessarily exclude employing animals as companions and co-workers to help balance the agro-ecosystem. Ducks and geese may be used for weed control, and chickens and turkeys may be used to control harmful insects such as grasshoppers. Since these co-workers are willing to work for chicken feed and garden scraps, are kept compassionately in a natural environment, and are not used for human food, we see a mutual benefit in this arrangement. Earthworms also can be used to recycle wastes, and their castings make a fine compost and organic fertilizer.

We are especially interested in Nature Farming and the use of Effective Microorganisms in developing our vegan organic gardens because there is evidence that foods produced by this method exceed normal organic foods and equal wild-crafted foods in terms of energetic and nutritional content. This may be because the synergy of Nature Farming with EM approximates nature’s own system of growing.

Evaluation of this new system of Nature Farming with EM using a vegan ethic in producing authentic live foods is a work in progress at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. Please join us for our upcoming workshop in Conscious Gardening, where we address many of these topics and more!