Chelsea Green Publishing

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

Pages:216 pages
Book Art:Black and white reproductions of original brush and ink drawings
Size: 5 x 8 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603585224
Pub. Date September 03, 2013

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
September 03, 2013


The earth is in great peril, due to the corporatization of agriculture, the rising climate crisis, and the ever-increasing levels of global poverty, starvation, and desertification on a massive scale. This present condition of global trauma is not "natural," but a result of humanity's destructive actions. And, according to Masanobu Fukuoka, it is reversible. We need to change not only our methods of earth stewardship, but also the very way we think about the relationship between human beings and nature.

Fukuoka grew up on a farm on the island of Shikoku in Japan. As a young man he worked as a customs inspector for plants going into and out of the country. This was in the 1930s when science seemed poised to create a new world of abundance and leisure, when people fully believed they could improve upon nature by applying scientific methods and thereby reap untold rewards. While working there, Fukuoka had an insight that changed his life forever. He returned to his home village and applied this insight to developing a revolutionary new way of farming that he believed would be of great benefit to society. This method, which he called "natural farming," involved working with, not in opposition to, nature.

Fukuoka's inspiring and internationally best-selling book, The One-Straw Revolution was first published in English in 1978. In this book, Fukuoka described his philosophy of natural farming and why he came to farm the way he did. One-Straw was a huge success in the West, and spoke directly to the growing movement of organic farmers and activists seeking a new way of life. For years after its publication, Fukuoka traveled around the world spreading his teachings and developing a devoted following of farmers seeking to get closer to the truth of nature.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert, a summation of those years of travel and research, is Fukuoka's last major work-and perhaps his most important. Fukuoka spent years working with people and organizations in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States, to prove that you could, indeed, grow food and regenerate forests with very little irrigation in the most desolate of places. Only by greening the desert, he said, would the world ever achieve true food security.

This revolutionary book presents Fukuoka's plan to rehabilitate the deserts of the world using natural farming, including practical solutions for feeding a growing human population, rehabilitating damaged landscapes, reversing the spread of desertification, and providing a deep understanding of the relationship between human beings and nature. Fukuoka's message comes right at the time when people around the world seem to have lost their frame of reference, and offers us a way forward.


"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

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.

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.


Masanobu Fukuoka

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.

Larry Korn

Larry Korn is an American who lived and worked on the farm of Masanobu Fukuoka for more than two years in the early 1970s. He is translator and editor of the English-language edition of Mr. Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and editor of his later book, Sowing Seeds in the Desert. Korn accompanied Mr. Fukuoka on his visits to the United States in 1979 and 1986. He studied Asian history, soil science, and plant nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in wholesale and retail plant nurseries, as a soil scientist for the California Department of Forestry, and as a residential landscape contractor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Korn has taught many courses and workshops about natural farming, permaculture, and local food production throughout the United States. He currently lives in Ashland, Oregon.


Masanobu Fukuoka Makes Seed Balls

Masanobu Fukuoka rice and orchard techniques

Natural Farming with Masanobu Fukuoka

Fukuoka in Greece (1/3)

Fukuoka in Greece (2/3)

Fukuoka in Greece (3/3)


The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

By Cole Ward and Karen Coshof

Vermont-based master butcher Cole Ward delivers a comprehensive guide to whole-animal butchery that goes beyond conventional “do-it-yourself” books and takes readers inside the world of truly sustainable meat production. The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat demystifies the process of getting meat to the table, and its wide scope will be welcome to those who not only wish to learn the rudiments of butchery, but also want to understand how meat animals are raised, slaughtered, and marketed in a holistic system that honors both animals and consumers.

Written in Cole’s unique voice of humor and simplicity, the book celebrates the traditional art of culinary butchery, introducing readers to stand-out butchers in America and Europe as well as a diverse group of farmers committed to raising the very best animals with respect.

The many methods of raising and finishing meat animals are clearly and thoroughly explained and compared, and sensitive issues like hormone and antibiotic use in meat production are assessed. Readers will learn all the terminology associated with meat and butchery, as well as the complexities of meat grading, carcass yield, marbling scores, and issues with inspection.

Also included are recipes, a detailed glossary, and more information on:

•    The real definition, work, and role of a culinary butcher;
•    The history and tradition of butchery;
•    Meat: selecting your breed, grading and aging, tenderness, storing; and reheating;
•    How meat gets to the table: farmers, slaughtering methods, stress, and animal welfare, the role of meat inspectors, cut sheets, what’s legally allowed/not allowed when purchasing meat for further processing, keeping integrity in the local meat movement;
•    Understanding the commercial meat food chain and recognizing deceptive practices;
•    Processing your own meat: what you’ll need, tools, safety, prep;
•    Beef: domestication, terminology, how cows work, raising methods (grass, grain, etc.), meat-safety issues, hormone growth implants, antibiotics and feed additives, carcass yield and marbling scores, and a partial list of beef breeds;
•    Cutting up a beef forequarter and hindquarter;
•    Pork: domestication, terminology, raising methods, grading and inspection, and a partial list of pork breeds;
•    Cutting up a side of pork;
•    Sheep: domestication, terminology, raising methods, and a partial list of meat breeds;
•    Cutting up a whole lamb;
•    Chicken: domestication, terminology, how to cut up a whole chicken;
•    How to make sausages;
•    Value-added products: what they are and how they can help increase your bottom line;
•    Your own butcher shop: size, equipment, display, marketing;
•    A better way of thinking about meat: a holistic overview and some conclusions.

History buffs will delight in the chapter that traces the roots of butchery from pre-history to modern times, and meat shoppers will welcome Cole’s description of what goes on behind the scenes at meat markets large and small. And, of course, new or aspiring butchers will find a well-illustrated slideshow on CD (included in the back of the book) with over 800 images on cutting up a side of beef, a side of pork, and whole lamb and chicken in more detail than is offered in any other book on the subject. Sure to be the ultimate resource on the subject of gourmet butchery, this book will change the conversation and help bring back a traditional art that is in jeopardy, but increasingly important in the local-food and ecological-agriculture movement.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

Cole Ward, Karen Coshof

Hardcover $49.95

Asian Vegetables

Asian Vegetables

By Sally Cunningham

Asian Vegetables brings together a wealth of information on over 40 varieties of fruit, vegetables and spices that are grown on the Indian subcontinent and form a distinctive part of the unique cuisine in that part of the world.

Each plant comes together with details of what to look for when buying, the different varieties available, their nutritional value, comprehensive cultivation instructions, useful colour photographs and much more. Most can be grown almost anywhere, though some will grow best and thrive in the warmer, wetter parts of this country. The author Sally Cunningham has personally researched, grown, cooked and eaten every plant mentioned in this book.

With this unique guide both the experienced gardener and those new to growing will bring variety and a fresh, new dimension to the food on their plates and the plants in their garden.

Available in: Paperback

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Asian Vegetables

Sally Cunningham

Paperback $24.95

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

By Peter Burke

The Low-Tech, No-Grow-Lights Approach to Abundant Harvest

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening offers good news: with nothing more than a cupboard and a windowsill, you can grow all the fresh salad greens you need for the winter months (or throughout the entire year) with no lights, no pumps, and no greenhouse.

Longtime gardener Peter Burke was tired of the growing season ending with the first frost, but due to his busy work schedule and family life, didn’t have the time or interest in high-input grow lights or greenhouses. Most techniques for growing what are commonly referred to as “microgreens” left him feeling overwhelmed and uninterested. There had to be a simpler way to grow greens for his family indoors. After some research and diligent experimenting, Burke discovered he was right—there was a way! And it was even easier than he ever could have hoped, and the greens more nutrient packed. He didn’t even need a south-facing window, and he already had most of the needed supplies just sitting in his pantry. The result: healthy, homegrown salad greens at a fraction of the cost of buying them at the market. The secret: start them in the dark.

Growing “Soil Sprouts”—Burke’s own descriptive term for sprouted seeds grown in soil as opposed to in jars—employs a method that encourages a long stem without expansive roots, and provides delicious salad greens in just seven to ten days, way earlier than any other method, with much less work. Indeed, of all the ways to grow immature greens, this is the easiest and most productive technique. Forget about grow lights and heat lamps!  This book is a revolutionary and inviting guide for both first-time and experienced gardeners in rural or urban environments. All you need is a windowsill or two. In fact, Burke has grown up to six pounds of greens per day using just the windowsills in his kitchen! Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening offers detailed step-by-step instructions to mastering this method (hint: it’s impossible not to succeed, it’s so easy!), tools and accessories to have on hand, seeds and greens varieties, soil and compost, trays and planters, shelving, harvest and storage, recipes, scaling up to serve local markets, and much more.

Available in: Paperback

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Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

Peter Burke

Paperback $29.95

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation

By Tradd Cotter

What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation help us manage, or at least make use of, invasive species such as kudzu and water hyacinth and thereby reduce dependence on herbicides? Is it possible to develop a low-cost and easy-to-implement mushroom-growing kit that would provide high-quality edible protein and bioremediation in the wake of a natural disaster? How can we advance our understanding of morel cultivation so that growers stand a better chance of success? 

For more than twenty years, mycology expert Tradd Cotter has been pondering these questions and conducting trials in search of the answers. In Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter not only offers readers an in-depth exploration of best organic mushroom cultivation practices; he shares the results of his groundbreaking research and offers myriad ways to apply your cultivation skills and further incorporate mushrooms into your life—whether your goal is to help your community clean up industrial pollution or simply to settle down at the end of the day with a cold Reishi-infused homebrew ale. 

The book first guides readers through an in-depth exploration of indoor and outdoor cultivation. Covered skills range from integrating wood-chip beds spawned with king stropharia into your garden and building a “trenched raft” of hardwood logs plugged with shiitake spawn to producing oysters indoors on spent coffee grounds in a 4×4 space or on pasteurized sawdust in vertical plastic columns. For those who aspire to the self-sufficiency gained by generating and expanding spawn rather than purchasing it, Cotter offers in-depth coverage of lab techniques, including low-cost alternatives that make use of existing infrastructure and materials. 

Cotter also reports his groundbreaking research cultivating morels both indoors and out, “training” mycelium to respond to specific contaminants, and perpetuating spawn on cardboard without the use of electricity. Readers will discover information on making tinctures, powders, and mushroom-infused honey; making an antibacterial mushroom cutting board; and growing mushrooms on your old denim jeans.

Geared toward readers who want to grow mushrooms without the use of pesticides, Cotter takes “organic” one step further by introducing an entirely new way of thinking—one that looks at the potential to grow mushrooms on just about anything, just about anywhere, and by anyone.

Available in: Paperback

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Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation

Tradd Cotter

Paperback $39.95