“I believe that Gandhi’s way, a methodless method, acting with a non-winning, non-opposing state of mind, is akin to natural farming. When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
– Masanobu Fukuoka
Every year agricultural land is being abandoned due to the permanent destruction caused by chemical agriculture. It is commonly argued that the combination of agriculture and animal husbandry is the number one cause for destruction of arable land and forests in the world. The world is slowly changing. With the rains being highly unpredictable and droughts becoming more and more severe, populations living in vulnerable areas of the world have and will increasingly suffer from starvation. The world relies on food being transported from distances that humankind could never have imagined just a hundred years ago. Where people of the past relied on food production of extremely specialized lands for farming such as deserts, mountains, and arid climates, the traditional knowledge has now been lost due to food simply being driven in for money and profits. Even in areas where agriculture has been historically lush, farming heavily relies on machinery given that the numbers of farmers are terribly low. The inputs in agriculture today are high, which is not a sustainable way to continue for the human species.
There will be a day when fossil fuels will be scarce; before this day arrives (or better, perhaps we should not let this day of depletion occur) we need to find an alternative way for farming which can be done with a very small amount of labor. It must be a system not depended upon fossil fuels and in which the yields can be comparable, if not higher, than what is found in the most researched, advanced, and modern scientific fields.
It should be resilient, if not drought proof, to arid places and so strong that the plants themselves can sustain with minimum interference from humans. It should be able to sustain the populations of the world, even those living in difficult agricultural lands where annual crops would otherwise fail. What kind of agriculture could this be?
Perennial plants can produce a similar yield in food production to the main annual crops that we farm today. Perennial crops do not have to start from scratch the next year, as annuals do, so they have more energy to invest into the clumping and production of fruit and top growth. A fruit orchard, which is a great example of perennial agriculture in which everyone is familiar, is more resilient to problems in the environment than a succulent annual vegetable garden.
In Reep we are developing more areas of crops that care for themselves. We have been slowly expanding ratoon perennial crops such as sorghum instead of maize, pigeon pea in place of certain lentil varieties; whilst completely changing the entire vegetable production area to perennials. The work load required for farming perennials is comparable to annuals at first but when completed, decreases year by year to the point that a single person can run a whole farm without machinery.
We are dedicated to the research of perennial agriculture because of the efficiency and decrease of workload for the already busy farmer.