Food forest – a Japanese approach to permaculture

In 1975, Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka wrote The One-Straw Revolution, a bestselling book that shared his views on agriculture and the natural world. Among other things, it has had a lasting influence on the development of the permaculture philosophy.

On July 15 the Kerrisdale Community Centre will host Fukuoka’s Food Forest, a workshop that will share both Fukuoka’s ideas and how they can be used here in B.C.

Helping both nature and the community

Keiko Honda, founder and executive director of VACS. | Photo by Noriko Nasu-Tidball

The event will be organized and led by the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS), with the aim to introduce and spread the teachings of Fukuoka and permaculture philosophy. Keiko Honda, the founder and executive director of VACS, is a supporter of permaculture and what it can bring to local communities.

“It’s an agriculture technique,” says Honda, “but it’s also a philosophy of life, in line with the mindset of many Indigenous peoples of the world in regard to their relationship with nature. It’s about training ourselves to become stewards of the land.”

Land stewardship is at the core of Fukuoka’s Food Forest, but the goal of the workshop is not to just engage with nature, but with each other as well. Honda sees Fukuoka’s studies and techniques as both good for the environment as well as enriching for the community.

“We will touch on food production,” she says, “but we will also explore what this means to our community and our lives. It’s a workshop, but the ultimate goal is cultivation of human beings, bringing a holistic approach to growing local food. It’s not about just eating healthy, it’s related back to us and how we can take care of each other.”

Gabriel Pliska, a local farmer and founder of Frisch Farms Vancouver, will also speak at the event, and will be a link between nature, food production and the community that Honda sees as essential to our society.

“We are all interdependent and interconnected,” she says. “The forest, trees, the natural world – they all have their functions, a role to play. Even if one thing is missing, it changes the harmony. It’s the same thing for the human world: everyone has skills that can benefit

Opportunity to create and grow

The event will be held at the Kerrisdale Community Centre, and is open to all ages and all experience levels pertaining to food production, home gardening and knowledge of the natural world.

“We will show some short films and images, and go a little in-depth into [Fukuoka’s] book,” says Honda. “We’re hoping anyone interested attends, not just gardeners.”

For those who attend, there will be a second part to the workshop on July 22, where there will be the option to do real implementation of the techniques and ideas discussed on July 15. This is a part of VACS’ mission to provide resources – whether through space, tools, planning, etc. – to communities in order to help their occupants grow and improve their area.

“We are all artists,” says Honda. “What that means is that we are all creators, as long as we have the resources available. Everything in life is art, and every space we use and occupy is a continuation of who we are. We are all interconnected, which is why it’s important to observe and make our spaces beneficial.”

That desire to improve communities and the environment in peaceful, mutually beneficial ways is reflected in Fukuoka’s philosophy, and it is what Honda hopes those attending the workshop will be filled with.

“These are such beautiful, important ideas. Today we can be distant and disconnected, so this type of education and understanding of how the natural world works is about finding your best self that you can share with the world.”

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