Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Straw Revolution: A Review

One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka has been on my to-read list for a long time.... over 2 years. When I finally picked it up to read it, I wondered why on earth it had taken me so long. This book was captivating, easy to read, and was much more than I expected it to be.
One Straw Revolution is a book about natural farming. I was expecting it to be more of a hands-on technical type book (which are often slow reading), but in fact it was quite spiritual and philosophical. The author, Fukuoka, uses natural methods to farm his land in Japan. And by natural, he does not mean that he uses organic compost and fertilizer... he actually follows what nature would do, planting nitrogen-fixing legumes in rotation with his rice crops, and also putting the "waste" straw from his rice harvest back onto the field. He uses almost no added nutrients, does not compost, and does not worry about pests. His pests change from year to year, and his expectation are that he will lose a small portion of his yield to pests. Not fighting against the pests allows the natural cycle to take place, and rarely do losses from pests become large.
Fukuoka talks about how the modern system of agriculture is not sustainable, and how it is destroying our environment. He believes that one day we will all have to use his methods of natural farming because we will not have the resources left to continue our current farming practices. The most amazing thing about all of this is that this book was published in 1978, before anyone was really aware of the destruction that our agricultural methods were causing. I take that back, obviously some people, like Fukuoka were aware, but for most of us, the move away from conventional farming is just now starting to happen (and many people still don't have a clue how much damage modern agricultural practices are creating). However, this movement towards "organic" and "natural" farming here in the US is not what Fukuoka is talking about. Organic is obviously better than non-organic, but according to One Straw, it still causes environmental destruction and it wastes time and energy. Fukuoka laughs at how organic farmers take crop residues, compost them, and then return them to their field (I guess he is laughing at me because this is what I do!). The crop rotation he has going allows him to just leave residues on the fields, and he grows alternating sets of crops that are not affected by the pests of the last crop. So, by the time a crop gets rotated through again, any pests that would affect it have been long gone. It is a magical system, I must say.
Interspersed through all of this talk of farming is talk of the power of nature and the spiritual side of growing food and sustaining oneself, which makes the book seem much more poetic than simply a book about farming. The downsides to this book are, well, of course, I don't live in Japan and I am curious how the system he uses would work where I live with the crops that I eat.. it seems like such a simple set up, yet how simple would it be to recreate it here, with the crops that grow where I live? Also, the end of the book goes into this mini-rant about how food should be simple. How dinners don't need to be fancy, how we don't need seasonings, and how food should be enjoyed with its natural flavor. I do agree that over-seasoning something or over-processing things can really detract from the flavor as well as the health benefits, however, I love eating deliciously prepared and seasoned food. He says that salt is the only seasoning that should be used.... Why? Seasonings are herbs, which are also plants and they make food taste wonderful. So, he may be a master farmer but it sounds like his palette could use a little pick-me-up.
Anyways, this is a great read and one that I should have read long ago! Pin It Now!


  1. I love your book reviews! I went through your review archves and made notes, planning to pick up some of the books you mentioned from the library. Thanks much!!

  2. Great review! I started this book when I was pregnant, but had to put it down and just never got back to it. I'll put it back on the list!

  3. Thanks for the review. Another to add to my (already huge, but eventually doable - my heart is in it) Wish List!