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)


Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century

Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century

By Stephen Leslie

With contributions from more than 60 contemporary draft-animal-powered farmers and equipment manufacturers 

Now is a time of exciting new developments for live animal power. As the numbers of adherents to this way of life grow, ecologically minded farmers in their fields are developing efficient horse-drawn systems, and equipment manufacturers in small shops all across North America and Europe are coming forth with new innovations in ground-drive technology that have us poised on the cusp of another agricultural revolution—with working horses, mules, donkeys, and oxen at the heart of it.

Stephen Leslie’s first book, The New Horse-Powered Farm, presented an overview of the many facets of running a small, diversified farm with live horse power. Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century is focused entirely on the tools and methods required to successfully manage the horse-powered market garden with draft animal power. However, this is not a step-by-step how-to guide outlining one single system, but rather a manual that presents a range of options and approaches. Leslie examines the function and use of all the implements typically employed on a contemporary draft-animal-powered market garden and illustrates these points with insightful reports from the field, farm profiles, and home-built solutions contributed by over sixty draft animal-powered farmers from across North America and Europe.

Each teamster’s story represents a patch in a quilt that is woven together with a narrative thread to guide the reader through the whole fabric of the growing season, from soil preparation to harvest. The book structure follows the seasonal progression of implements, beginning with several examples of contemporary draft-animal-powered produce farms; next an examination of the versatile utility of forecarts; then taking an in-depth look at fertility management on the farm; moving on through primary and secondary tillage, seeding and transplanting; then on to the multifold options for cultivators, tool carriers, and multipurpose implements, with technical harnessing and hitching details for the best use of the implements. For experienced teamsters and beginning market growers farming with horses, this is an invaluable and one-of-a-kind guide, sure to last forever in the agricultural canon.

Available in: Hardcover

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Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century

Stephen Leslie, David Kline

Hardcover $45.00

Home Baked

Home Baked

By Hanne Risgaard

Recipes and techniques for baking artisan bread using organic stone-milled flour, organic yeasts, sourdoughs, and more from renowned Danish organic farm and family-owned mill, Skærtoft Mølle-literally translated as "Cut-Road Mill"-situated on Als, an idyllic island in the southeast of Denmark.

Hanne Risgaard offers recipes for unique bread and pastry that bring a Nordic approach to bread baking that feels worlds away from most conventional baking books. At Skærtoft, there is a belief in organic, small-scale-produced whole grains, traditional stone-ground milling techniques, use of wild fermented sourdough, organic yeast, and attention to terroir. Their farm produces some of the highest-quality, nutrient-rich grain available. In fact, Copenhagen's celebrated restaurant NOMA, recently accorded a "World's Best Restaurant" award, uses Skærtoft Mølle products. Indeed, the growing movement of Nordic cuisine centers on its devotion to high-quality regional produce, the creativity of the chef, and a sound awareness of the workings of nature. This set of principles also serves to guide Hanne Risgaard in Home Baked.

Risgaard offers practical information not only on the concepts and processes behind creating delicious Scandinavian breads, but also concise growing and cultivation information about the grains themselves, as well as a guide to basic equipment and kitchen set-up, ingredients, and the history of Skærtoft and their philosophy. At the beginning of each recipe there is a brief story contextualizing where the recipe comes from. Their world comes alive!

Home Baked includes detailed sections on: baking with yeast; sourdoughs; baking without a raising agent (pies, cakes, cookies, crackers); and covers grains such as wheat, spelt, barley, and rye. The breads include unique ingredients like foraged herbs and greens, such as the Cocotte with Ramsons (either put directly in the bread dough or preserved in a syrup of pearls of rye and sea buckthorn berries); as well as other interesting standouts like the Buns for Tilters (with apple and yogurt, prepared for the annual horse games), Green Knots (made with stinging nettle, in honor of the fight to save the nettle in France), Rosemary Sourdough, Elderflower Muffins, and more.Perfectly timed for the growing interest in Scandinavian, and particularly Danish, cuisine, Home Baked is a must-have for the bread lover's library.

Available in: Hardcover

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Home Baked

Hanne Risgaard, Jeffrey Hamelman, Marie-Louise Risgaard

Hardcover $39.95

The New Bread Basket

The New Bread Basket

By Amy Halloran

For more than 10,000 years, grains have been the staples of Western civilization. The stored energy of grain allowed our ancestors to shift from nomadic hunting and gathering and build settled communities—even great cities. Though most bread now comes from factory bakeries, the symbolism of wheat and bread—amber waves of grain, the staff of life—still carries great meaning.

Today, bread and beer are once again building community as a new band of farmers, bakers, millers, and maltsters work to reinvent local grain systems. The New Bread Basket tells their stories and reveals the village that stands behind every loaf and every pint.

While eating locally grown crops like heirloom tomatoes has become almost a cliché, grains are late in arriving to local tables, because growing them requires a lot of land and equipment. Milling, malting, and marketing take both tools and cooperation. The New Bread Basket reveals the bones of that cooperation, profiling the seed breeders, agronomists, and grassroots food activists who are collaborating with farmers, millers, bakers, and other local producers.

Take Andrea and Christian Stanley, a couple who taught themselves the craft of malting and opened the first malthouse in New England in one hundred years. Outside Ithaca, New York, bread from a farmer-miller-baker partnership has become an emblem in the battle against shale gas fracking. And in the Pacific Northwest, people are shifting grain markets from commodity exports to regional feed, food, and alcohol production. Such pioneering grain projects give consumers an alternative to industrial bread and beer, and return their production to a scale that respects people, local communities, and the health of the environment.

Many Americans today avoid gluten and carbohydrates. Yet, our shared history with grains—from the village baker to Wonder Bread—suggests that modern changes in farming and processing could be the real reason that grains have become suspect in popular nutrition. The people profiled in The New Bread Basket are returning to traditional methods like long sourdough fermentations that might address the dietary ills attributed to wheat. Their work and lives make our foundational crops visible, and vital, again.

Available in: Paperback

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The New Bread Basket

Amy Halloran

Paperback $17.95

Miraculous Abundance

Miraculous Abundance

By Charles Hervé-Gruyer and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer

The Bec Hellouin model for growing food, sequestering carbon, creating jobs, and increasing biodiversity without using fossil fuels

When Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer set out to create their farm in an historic Normandy village, they had no idea just how much their lives would change. Neither one had ever farmed before. Charles had been circumnavigating the globe by sail, operating a floating school that taught students about ecology and indigenous cultures. Perrine had been an international lawyer in Japan. Each had returned to France to start a new life. Eventually, Perrine joined Charles in Normandy, and Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin was born. 

Since then the farm has become a celebrated model of innovative, ecological agriculture in Europe, connected to national and international organizations addressing food security, and heralded by celebrity chefs as well as the Slow Food movement. The Miraculous Abundance of Bec Hellouin Farm is the eloquent tale of the couple’s evolution from creating a farm to sustain their family to delving into an experiment in how to grow the most food possible, in the most ecological way possible, and create a farm model that can carry us into a post-carbon future—when oil is no longer moving goods and services, energy is scarcer, and localization is a must. 

Today, the farm produces a variety of vegetables using a mix of permaculture, bio-intensive, four-season, and natural farming techniques--as well as techniques gleaned from native cultures around the world. It has some animals for eggs and milk, horses for farming, a welcome center, a farm store, a permaculture school, a bread oven for artisan breads, greenhouses, a cidery, and a forge. It has also become the site of research focusing on how small organic farms like theirs might confront Europe’s (and the world’s) projected food crisis. 

But in this honest and engaging account of the trials and joys of their uncompromising effort, readers meet two people who are farming the future as much as they are farming their land. They envision farms like theirs someday being the hub for a host of other businesses that can drive rural communities—from bread makers and grain millers to animal care givers and other tradespeople. 

Market farmers and home gardeners alike will find much in these pages, but so will those who’ve never picked up a hoe.  The couple’s account of their quest to design an almost Edenlike farm, hone their practices, and find new ways to feed the world is an inspiring tale. It is also a love letter to a future in which people increasingly live in rural communities that rely on traditional skills, locally created and purveyed goods and services, renewable energy, and greater local governance, but are also connected to the larger world.

Available in: Paperback

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Miraculous Abundance

Eliot Coleman, Charles Hervé-Gruyer, Perrine Hervé-Gruyer

Paperback $24.95