This year, the 15th annual Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC), a focal point for the sustainable food and farming community in the UK, took place from January 4-5. ORFC drew in a variety of participants in-person and online, including farmers, growers, activists, policymakers, and researchers, all united by a shared vision to transform our global food system.
Photo Credit to Hugh Warwick for ORFC 2024
This year, Shumei co-hosted a session titled “Tapping Into the Spiritual Aspects of Nature for the Wellbeing of People and Planet,” which explored how tapping into the spiritual aspect of nature can support food system transformation and improve the well-being of farmers, communities, and the land.
The session was moderated by Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association, and featured session keynote Satish Kumar, Founder of Schumacher College and former editor of Resurgence Magazine. Alongside them were panelists Shinya Imahashi, Natural Agriculture farmer and Manager of the Shumei Natural Agriculture Yatesbury Farm, Barbara Hachipuka Banda, Chief Executive Officer of Natural Agriculture Development Project in Zambia, and Charlotte Dufour, Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA) Representative and Co-Chair of Groupe URD.
Image Courtesy of Shumei International
Ben Raskin opened the session with an invitation to audience members to think about spirituality differently, not as a religion, and to be open-minded in this conversation about the spiritual aspects of nature. Satish Kumar began his talk by sharing his personal journey in understanding nature. He explained that everything we do is centered around the heart and consciousness. Satish noted to the audience that spirituality exists within everyone, and we only need to realize it. By doing so, what and how we do something defines who we are and the outcome. Whether it is cooking, washing the dishes or gardening, it can become a spiritual practice. In fact, he described Natural Agriculture as the purest form of farming and gardening and that Shumei farmers approach farming as a spiritual practice because of their intention.
Following the keynote, the other panelists explore their approach to spirituality in their own work. In his presentation, Shinya Imahashi explored Shumei’s Natural Agriculture philosophy and how Natural Agriculture is a spiritual practice that recognizes nature as sacred and perfect. Shinya highlighted that through Shumei Natural Agriculture, farmers can tap into their interconnection with nature in order to grow resilient and nutritious crops. Shinya shared experiences from his Yatesbury farm and how talking to plants, listening to the land, and fostering a deep connection with nature helped his tomato plants overcome disease, establishing a harmonious environment that allowed them to survive, build their resilience to thrive, and provide abundant yields.
Image Courtesy of Shumei International
Barbara Hachipuka Banda shared insights into the Natural Agriculture Development Project in Zambia, emphasizing its alignment with indigenous farming traditions and the recognition of indigenous knowledge. She highlighted the spiritual aspects of farming in Zambia, connecting it to traditions like praying, dancing, and chanting, which have a direct impact on crops. Barbara also underscored Natural Agriculture’s role in fostering a deep connection between humanity and nature, citing examples of community cohesion and well-being.
Charlotte Dufour discussed her work on food systems and finding spirituality touches all aspects of the food system, introducing the ‘Listening to the Earth’ movement and emphasizing the impact of collective meditation and consciousness. She elaborated on ways farmers can restore their relationship with nature through mindfulness and meditation, detailing the Conscious Food Systems Alliance’s efforts to extend this framework to policymakers.
The session concluded with questions from the audience in person and online. The subject of spirituality resonated with the audience, and there were several questions about how people can connect to the land, establish harmony with nature, and reconcile the differences between spirituality and religion.
To watch the full session and hear from experts and farmers on how tapping into the spiritual aspect of nature can support food system transformation, please see here: https://shorturl.at/DFY24.
“Shumei has the purest form of farming and gardening.” – Satish Kumar.