Saturday, February 5, 2011

Natural Farming, beyond organic and beyond local

The happiest moments for my family occur when we encounter lots of wildlife in the middle of farm work. The field appears to be alive as if it is one organism in nature, and we’re delighted to find ourselves being part of it. “ - Arthur Kikuchi, Kenta Farm

Children planting at Kenta Farm
    Arthur Kikuchi is a Pender Island certified organic farmer who has taken organic farming to the next level, beyond organic, and beyond local. Natural farming, an organic style of farming that embraces the natural world, can be done by anyone who wants to do it. No fancy tractors, no large acreage is needed. The following is Arthur's view from Kenta Farm.
   “Kenta is a Japanese name meaning “a healthy child”. We call our garden “Kenta Farm”, wishing the well-being of our next generation to come. In the summer of 2000, I was driven by an impulse to start Natural Farming on Pender Island because we thought we would be able to raise our children with healthy minds as well as sound bodies through working with nature.
Big cedar at Kikuchi Memorial - Singing Frog Covenant
    Paying our respect to Mother Earth, we try to restore biological diversity of the agro-ecosystem as much as possible by applying zero-tillage, multiple inter-cropping system which enable non-crop species to coexist. Native plants or insects, for example, are considered by many conventional farmers to be “unwelcome guests” because they are just “weeds” or “pests” which disturb the growth of crops. However, there must be some significant reason why Mother Nature fosters various kinds of plant and animal species, giving them the means to proliferate in this world. Learning from the natural ecosystems we've found that so many kinds of plants and animals co-prospering on Earth indicate that billions of micro flora and fauna also cohabit the soil, playing the vital role of maintaining balance of the entire ecosystem. We believe diverse life forms can live in diverse ecosystems, and our culture can then become diverse and harmonious. Ultimately, respect for biological diversity will be deemed as essential as respect for the diversity of he human cultures. Natural Farming with diverse species will enable people to become aware that all people and species have an inherent value and equal right to live and blossom on Earth. Caring for the happiness and well-being of all forms of life on this planet is at the heart of our desire to practice Natural Farming.
    The happiest moments for my family occur when we encounter lots of wildlife in the middle of farm work. The field appears to be alive as if it is one organism in nature, and we’re delighted to find ourselves being part of it. Through Natural Farming, we'd like to keep pursuing the question: How do we ensure that we bequeath our beautiful planet to future generations.” - Arthur Kikuchi

   Arthur and his family recently purchased an undeveloped forested property on Hoosen Road and placed a conservation covenant on it in honour of his parents who have passed away. He was assisted with the help of the Islands Trust Fund, the Pender Islands Conservancy Association, and the Nancy Waxler Morrison Biodiversity Protection Fund. The property is known as the Kikuchi Memorial – Frog Song Forest Covenant. Arthur and his wife Sanae, and their children Kenta, Yoko, Shinta and Kota are regulars at the Pender Island Farmer's Market and they farm on a different property on Port Washington Road. I have been inspired and encouraged by his perspective on how we should farm with a minimum footprint and leave a lasting legacy for our children and future generations. Years ago I learned to “make peace with the weeds” and I am amazed at their tenacity. By allowing weeds to live with the grasses, our animals are healthier. The weeds have long tap roots, pulling up micronutrients to the plant, which is either eaten or allowed to die, releasing the nutrients to the soil. Weeds are also the first to arrive at newly disturbed and exposed soil, and their benefit is to quickly establish themselves, grow extensively and plunk down roots, so to speak. All of this has the effect of stabilizing the soil and preventing erosion. Over time the grasses will catch up to the weeds, but you have to be patient. I have wondered if my secret admiration for the weeds was unnatural, but evidently it is an important part of Natural Farming.


  1. For a public example of the Kikuchis' philosophy of natural agriculture in action, please peer into the school garden on Pender. Arthur has been our mentor and guiding force as we've grown our garden up from the playground (with plenty of support from school admin, other teachers, students and the community). I have to admit that I sometimes find myself absent-mindedly pulling out a weed, but then I remember what Arthur has taught me.

  2. Also want to point your readers to the Kikuchi Family's Respect for Nature Sustainable Recipes Cookbook. The link is