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
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
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 farms.
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
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
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 . . .