NSW day 3: Why you should probably never bother with caterpillars eating your cabbage?

Natural farming has always intrigued me. It intrigued me even more when I realized that some modern farmers think they can beat nature at its own game, and that nature on its own is not efficient enough to feed the world. In a world where respected figures are talking about geoengineering and recombinant DNA technology as THE solutions for feeding a famished world population of 9 billion by 2050 [who presumably cannot make sound food choices for themselves], it is madness to even suggest a farming system that allows pests to feast on the precious calories we cultivate per unit area!

Is it really madness? The belief that nature has enough for every creature to sustain its existence isn’t so far fetched. If the caterpillars eat the external leaves of a cabbage, leaving a perfectly edible interior, why would that be a problem? caterpillars provide some sort of compost, and when they become butterflies they pollinate the flowers that later produce seeds, giving that same cabbage the chance to reproduce itself. Isn’t that efficient?

Shiro and Yuko Yoshihara, the beautiful couple from Japan.

I cannot talk about Shiro Yoshihara’s enthusiasm for the soil layers and how he frames their functionality in terms of holocracy, without mentioning his lovely wife Yuko Yoshihara, whose passion for continuing life has inspired Shiro’s philosophy.

Shiro took this further, as he used the natural garden as a laboratory for businessmen to learn about new models of management. In the natural garden, self organization is a given, division of roles makes the evolutionary purpose crystal clear, and the wholeness comes from all elements knowing and performing their roles in a manner that sustains itself into infinity. The triad of self organization, evolutionary purpose and wholeness are the main characteristics of the organizational structure known as TEAL according to Frederic Laloux.

I have to confess now, that meeting this brilliant couple was one of the reasons I took the decision to go to Monolithos for the NSW gathering. My masters degree in agroecology didn’t teach me what Shiro and Yuko have integrated.

The Greek farmer from Montreal

Thanks to Jurgen and Maria, we went together with our Japanese friends to a Greek farmer who believed in natural farming. His holding was a breath of fresh air, and didn’t seem at all out of place in the island of Rhodes; that is the way it had to be. He used to own a restaurant in Montreal, but decided it was time to go home, where the sun, sea and winds knew his name. Rows of strawberry alternated with rows of cabbage. Chinese mustard greens of various shades and shapes were a gift from Chinese workers at his restaurant that he kept cultivating year after year. Sweet red strawberries sat like gems on the black mulch under the sun of late April, who could resist this temptation?

The farm

He had cabbages that looked awful, after having been feasted upon by all sorts of insects, but the interior part was still good to eat, and tasted delicious! In real life, nothing is meant to be perfect, yet, everything has a purpose to fulfill, and when we all do our part, we get our chance to evolve.

It may not be an ideal way to produce food, with the narrative of food insecurity thrown at us continuously. However, I believe it is the way to confront the looming threat of extreme hunger, especially with unpredictable climate patterns is to adopt this mindset that questions the evolutionary purpose of the systems in which we live.

Would you eat these?

After an enriching day around the farm, drinking in colours, flavours and smells that were even more educational than spoken words, we headed to the old town of Rhodes for a Mediterranean dinner, with an extra dose of the secret mediterranean ingredient: Conviviality.

Old town of Rhodes.

On that day Yuko gave me a Japanese name, as she sensed from my energy: 山笑うor yamawarau, the smiling mountain, the first sign of spring.

Want to explore this magical space where mediterranean conviviality meets japanese beautiful wisdom? Consider joining the Next stage world gathering in October.