"Body and soil are one"

One of the guiding concepts of organic/natural farming in Japan is shin-do-fu-ji. (If your computer displays Chinese characters, it is written like this: 身土不二 or 心土不二.) It is composed of 4 Chinese characters meaning “body-soil-no-two”—literally, body and soil are not two different things. The people, animals, and other living organisms of a place have an intimate and ongoing relationship with the soil of that place. Apparently the phrase began life as a Buddhist concept centuries ago, but these days it is most often used by organic farmers such as Masanobu Fukuoka. Our bodies are made from the soil where we live; thus, it makes sense to eat locally as much as possible, just as it makes sense to cherish and defend and know the living soil around us as if it were our own body and kin.

This is very close to what Albert Howard, the father of organic farming in the West, says in Soil and Health—that you can judge the health of a human community by the health of the soil in that community. He was one of the first to notice a correlation between the health and longevity of people in Indore, India, with their soil preservation practices—and the composting methods found there became the basis for our composting principles today. Without living, healthy soil, we humans are lost. To me, this is the most urgent reason for supporting local, organic farmers, and becoming to the best of one’s ability an active participant in the great project of protecting and rejuvenating soil through safe practices and knowledgeable composting.

Humans—and perhaps Americans in particular—are restless animals. About 2/3 of the people we’ve met at the markets are not originally from this area, and many of us have moved more than once or twice. In all of this migration, it seems that one good way to stay grounded is in the concept of shin-do-fu-ji. When people ask me what Japan was like, I find myself thinking more of the soil there and the farms I knew than anything else. Likewise, Kumiko has gotten to know Missouri this spring and summer by digging in the dirt west of Nixa, watching the relationship of our Japanese seeds with Ozarks soil, and meeting like-minded people at the markets. It is said of both Japan and America that contemporary life despite its conveniences lacks community—if this is so, perhaps one way of (re) building a living, local human community is through a mutual dedication to the soil which joins us. This is the meaning and the potential of shin-do-fu-ji.