The Rodale Institute®
and Shinji Shumeikai (based in Shiga, Japan) have worked together
formally for five years to jointly promote the role of regenerative
agriculture. They share the belief that farming of this type
can contribute significantly to a restored environment, human
health, vital communities and a more peaceful world.
Multiple visits between our groups to farms, homes, Shumei
centers, museums and offices in the U.S. and Japan created
many friendships. They opened the door for greater appreciation
of the differences that culture creates in understanding the
roles of food, work, religion and nature.
Japanese people are well informed about Western non-organic
farming. Within environmentally minded Japanese, there is
some knowledge of the U.S. organic movement’s explosion
in the marketplace in recent years.
Yet Japanese agriculture in general – and its organic
sector in particular – are little known in the West.
Even less well-known are the spiritually-based agricultural
movements like Shumei Natural Agriculture that have developed
parallel to commercially driven organic farming during the
past decade in Japan. The Shumei movement is now represented
by the public non-profit organization named Shumei
Natural Agriculture Network.
Shinji Shumeikai support has been critical in launching The
New Farm® online. In its first year, The New Farm has
covered many aspects of sustainable and organic agriculture
around the world. Stories detail production methods by input
and crop, explain reasons why farmers change methods, and
explore motivations of consumers to buy food that is produced
locally, humanely and in harmony with natural cycles. Editors
and technicians developed new tools to track organic prices
and allow farmers to advertise their farms without charge.
The New Farm editors wanted from the beginning to include
coverage of the Shumei
Natural Agriculture Network. We tried several ways to
understand and write the stories of the many hundreds of Shumei
farmers. Our best efforts never felt good enough to print.
Our extended sharing and careful communication across cultures
left us grasping for a suitable way to connect Eastern reality
and Western words.
We realized we needed someone highly skilled in writing about
North American organic farming to invest significant time
on the ground in Japan, in the fields of Shumei Natural Agriculture
We were fortunate to discover Lisa M. Hamilton, a California
journalist and fine-arts photographer. Her stories and photos
have delighted readers in national publications such as National
Geographic Traveler, Gastronomica, Z Magazine and The Humanist.
She has edited, written and produced publications on art,
entertainment and environmental issues, in print and on the
Web. She has distinguished herself in agricultural journalism
with an acclaimed series of stories on prominent California
crops in The Newsletter of CCOF (California Certified Organic
Hamilton spent more than two weeks in southern Japan this
spring, listening carefully to many farmers and their supporters
within the Shumei community. What she discovered is no simple
story. Rather, it is a complexly woven world view spun out
of Japan’s history, culture and spirituality, now being
stitched in real time for an eternal purpose.
Join Hamilton on her journey of listening, observing and
reflecting on this very Japanese movement. Take in each of
the seven stories to come as a necessary part of the whole.
Weigh them lightly until you have them all in hand. You will
not be disappointed . . .