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 New Livestock Farmer

The New Livestock Farmer

By Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Jim Dunlop

Including information on cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep, and goats, and exotics like bison, rabbits, elk, and deer

How can anyone from a backyard hobbyist to a large-scale rancher go about raising and selling ethically produced meats directly to consumers, restaurants, and butcher shops? With the rising consumer interest in grass-fed, pasture-raised, and antibiotic-free meats, how can farmers most effectively tap into those markets and become more profitable? The regulations and logistics can be daunting enough to turn away most would-be livestock farmers, and finding and keeping their customers challenges the rest.

Farmer, consultant, and author Rebecca Thistlethwaite (Farms with a Future) and her husband and coauthor, Jim Dunlop, both have extensive experience raising a variety of pastured livestock in California and now on their homestead farm in Oregon. The New Livestock Farmer provides pasture-based production essentials for a wide range of animals, from common farm animals (cattle, poultry, pigs, sheep, and goats) to more exotic species (bison, rabbits, elk, and deer).

Each species chapter discusses the unique requirements of that animal, then delves into the steps it takes to prepare and get them to market. Profiles of more than fifteen meat producers highlight some of the creative ways these innovative farmers are raising animals and direct-marketing superior-quality meats.

In addition, the book contains information on a variety of vital topics:

•    Governmental regulations and how they differ from state to state;

•    Slaughtering and butchering logistics, including on-farm and mobile processing options and sample cutting sheets;

•    Packaging, labeling, and cold-storage considerations;

•    Principled marketing practices; and

•    Financial management, pricing, and other business essentials.

This book is must reading for anyone who is serious about raising meat animals ethically, outside of the current consolidated, unsustainable CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) system.  It offers a clear, thorough, well-organized guide to a subject that will become increasingly important as the market demand for pasture-raised meat grows stronger.

Available in: Paperback

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The New Livestock Farmer

Rebecca Thistlethwaite, Nicolette Hahn Niman, Jim Dunlop, Bill Niman

Paperback $29.95

The New Cider Maker's Handbook

The New Cider Maker's Handbook

By Claude Jolicoeur

All around the world, the public’s taste for fermented cider has been growing more rapidly than at any time in the past 150 years. And with the growing interest in locally grown and artisanal foods, many new cideries are springing up all over North America, often started up by passionate amateurs who want to take their cider to the next level as small-scale craft producers.

To make the very best cider—whether for yourself, your family, and friends or for market—you first need a deep understanding of the processes involved, and the art and science behind them. Fortunately, The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is here to help. Author Claude Jolicoeur is an internationally known, award-winning cider maker with an inquiring, scientific mind. His book combines the best of traditional knowledge and techniques with up-to-date, scientifically based practices to provide today’s cider makers with all the tools they need to produce high-quality ciders.

The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is divided into five parts containing:

  • An accessible overview of the cider making process for beginners;
  • Recommendations for selecting and growing cider-appropriate apples;
  • Information on juice-extraction equipment and directions on how to build your own grater mill and cider press;
  • A discussion of the most important components of apple juice and how these may influence the quality of the cider;
  • An examination of the fermentation process and a description of methods used to produce either dry or naturally sweet cider, still or sparkling cider, and even ice cider.

This book will appeal to both serious amateurs and professional cider makers who want to increase their knowledge, as well as to orchardists who want to grow cider apples for local or regional producers. Novices will appreciate the overview of the cider-making process, and, as they develop skills and confidence, the more in-depth technical information will serve as an invaluable reference that will be consulted again and again. This book is sure to become the definitive modern work on cider making.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Claude Jolicoeur first developed his passion for apples and cider after acquiring a piece of land on which there were four rows of old abandoned apple trees. He started making cider in 1988 using a “no-compromise” approach, stubbornly searching for the highest possible quality. Since then, his ciders have earned many awards and medals at competitions, including a Best of Show at the prestigious Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP).

Claude actively participates in discussions on forums like the Cider Digest, and is regularly invited as a guest speaker to events such as the annual Cider Days festival in western Massachusetts. He lives in Quebec City.

Available in: Hardcover

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The New Cider Maker's Handbook

Claude Jolicoeur

Hardcover $44.95

Understanding Roots

Understanding Roots

By Robert Kourik

Award-Winner in the "Home & Garden” category of the 2015 USA Best Book Awards

Understanding Roots uncovers one of the greatest mysteries underground—the secret lives and magical workings of the roots that move and grow invisibly beneath our feet.

Roots, it seems, do more than just keep a plant from falling over: they gather water and nutrients, exude wondrous elixirs to create good soil, make friends with microbes and fungi, communicate with other roots, and adapt themselves to all manner of soils, winds, and climates, nourishing and sustaining our gardens, lawns, and woodlands.

Understanding Roots contains over 115 enchanting and revealing root drawings that most people have never seen, from prairies, grasslands, and deserts, as well as drawings based on excavations of vegetable, fruit, nut, and ornamental tree roots. Every root system presented in this book was drawn by people literally working in the trenches, sketching the roots where they grew.

The text provides a verydetailed review of all aspects of transplanting; describes how roots work their magic to improve soil nutrients; investigates the hidden life of soil microbes and their mysterious relationship to roots; explores the question of whether deep roots really gather more unique nutrients than shallow roots; shares the latest research about the mysteries of mycorrhizal (good fungal) association; shows you exactly where to put your fertilizer, compost, water, and mulch to help plants flourish; tells you why gray water increases crop yields more than fresh water; and, most importantly, reveals the science behind all the above (with citations for each scientific paper).

This book contains at least eighty percent more new information, more results of the latest in-depth and up-to-date explorations, and even more helpful guidelines on roots than the author’s previous book (Roots Demystified: Change Your Garden Habits to Help Roots Thrive). This is not a revised edition—it’s a whole new stand-alone book.

Available in: Paperback

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Understanding Roots

Robert Kourik

Paperback $24.95

Perennial Vegetables & Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (Book & DVD Bundle)

Perennial Vegetables & Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (Book & DVD Bundle)

By Eric Toensmeier

Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as perennial flowers and shrubs, need no annual tilling or planting, yet thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season.

Get the best information on growing these easy and interesting crops from Eric Toensmeier's award-winning book Perennial Vegetables, and tour his own lush forest garden in the new DVD, Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier

About Perennial Vegetables:

In Toensmeier's book, Perennial Vegetables (Chelsea Green, 2007), the adventurous gardener will find information, tips, and sound advice on less-common edibles that will make any garden a perpetual, low-maintenance source of food. In his book, readers will find perennial vegetables are perfect as part of an edible-landscape plan or permaculture garden. Profiling more than a hundred species, with dozens of color photographs and illustrations, and filled with valuable growing tips, recipes, and resources, Perennial Vegetables is a groundbreaking and ground-healing book that will open the eyes of gardeners everywhere to the exciting world of edible perennials.

About Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (DVD):

In the DVD—a culmination of workshops recorded in Mexico, Florida, and Massachusetts—plant specialist Eric Toensmeier introduces gardeners to more than 100 species of little-known, underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such delights as ground cherry, ramps, air potatoes, the fragrant spring tree, and the much-sought-after, antioxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as the goji berry), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and culinary satisfaction. Toensmeier also takes viewers on a plant-by-plant tour of his garden in Massachusetts.

Available in: Mixed media product

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Perennial Vegetables & Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (Book & DVD Bundle)

Eric Toensmeier

Mixed media product $59.95