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4 March 2024

What Difference Can Soul Make to the Real Food And Farming Movement?

Joanne Fullerton reports on three sessions with Satish Kumar at ORFC24

A world-renowned author and international speaker, Satish Kumar is known for books such as Soil · Soul · Society: A New Trinity for Our Time (2016) and Radical Love: From Separation to Connection with the Earth, Each Other, and Ourselves (2023). He is founder of The Resurgence Trust, co-founder of Schumacher College, the editor for Resurgence & Ecologist magazine for over 40 years, and currently serves this publication as Editor Emeritus.

At ORFC24 we were fortunate to have Satish guide a meditation and speak at three different sessions. Satish’s presence at ORFC brought space for thought, conversation and reflection on the topic of Soul in the food and farming movement.

SOIL, SOUL, SOCIETY

Soil, Soul, Society with Satish Kumar was a recorded session, where Satish shared his proposal for a “Soil, Soul, Society” trinity – an idea grounded in the reality that we need love, soil and each other to exist and live well.

Speaking of Soil, he told the audience that humans are humus (humus is Latin for soil), and

 “…our body is soil transformed”.

Speaking to Soul, he highlighted the need for compassion and love in everything we do, if we are to bring Soul back into our lived experience.  He said,

“soil sustains our physical world, compassion and kindness and love and generosity sustains our nonphysical…”.

Speaking about Society, Satish explained that we’re all made of the same thing. We are all Nature. We are soil forms, and so loving Nature means loving ourselves and each other. Bringing Soul into our society is about seeing ourselves in each other, and bringing love, joy, trust and compassion into our interpersonal relationships. It’s hard to disagree with someone who comes out with lines such as:

“let’s put Soul back into the soil, let’s put Soul back into our body, let’s put Soul into our society…”

When we think about what Soul is, how it manifests, and how we recognise it through love, gratitude, compassion, kindness, and trust, why would we want to leave it out?

This trinity encapsulates Nature, and unifies everything, and is therefore appropriate for the food and farming movement. According to Satish, for

 “real farming and real agriculture and agroecology and food systems we need a bigger picture, a bigger vision, a bigger holistic ideal and that ideal I have encapsulated in three words Soil (Nature), Soul (Spirit Consciousness), Society (Human Community)”

SDG0

The next (unrecorded) session SGD0: Applying Love and Joy to Food and Farming brought Soul to the conversation by focusing on Love and Joy. Satish was joined by Charlotte Dufour of Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA), The Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA) is convened by UNDP and is a movement focussed on building the inner capacities required to see food and farming as an agent for system change and regeneration.

Charlotte told the audience that “SDG0” came about when she realised with her friend, Dr David Nabarro, that the Sustainable Development goals are infused by one unwritten goal: love and joy. Indeed, why else would we want to have better healthcare, no poverty and thriving ecosystems, if not for the love and joy of it. This realisation led her to wonder how to promote a soulful approach to sustainable development and food systems transformation.

Answering this very question, Satish spoke passionately about embedding love and joy in all we do. He asked the audience if we can love soil, love nature, and find joy in that expression of love. He encouraged the audience to find pleasure even in tasks such as washing the dishes or sending an email – “make every email a love letter” he said.

Satish invited the audience to take the last ten minutes of the session to write a love letter to a beloved place. Sitting with the vision of my beloved garden, I wrote my poem. Just one line: “You loved me first”.

This session was a gift to those who attended. A gift in the form of an invitation to let Love and Joy be present in our lives. 

PANEL DISCUSSION

The final recorded session was a panel discussion: Tapping into the Spiritual Aspects of Nature for the Wellbeing of People and Planet, chaired by Ben Raskin, Satish Kumar was joined by Charlotte Dufour (CoFSA), Alice Cunningham (Shumei), Shinya Imahashi (Shumei), and Barbara Hachipuka Banda (Natural Agriculture Development Program in Zambia). It was an extremely interesting discussion from those across the panel discussing topics such as religion and leadership. Here, I will share the stories about Natural Agriculture that were told by Shinya Imahashi and Barbara Hachipuka Banda.

Shinya, a long-time practitioner of Natural Agriculture who works at the Shumei Yatesbury farm in the UK, described his way of living in close relationship with the land, through close observation, indigenous seed saving, minimal external inputs (including compost and organic sprays) and trusting the soil. He told the audience that Natural Agriculture has its own trinity, “Pure Soil, Pure Seed, and Pure Heart”.

Shinya shared two stories about growing tomato plants: one where he resisted advice to spray aphids and one where he resisted advice to remove the plants from blight-infected soil. Instead of spraying or seeing any soil as “bad”, he spoke to the soil and plants, putting his faith in Nature’s own healing capacity. The aphids went away, and he continues to grow plants in the same place ten years later despite the previous case of blight. Shinya believes that “respect and love for the soil and plants helps bring out their inherent power”. 

Barbara is founder and director of the Natural Agriculture Development Program Zambia (NADPZ), which was set up after the success of a 20 farm pilot project partnership between Shumei International and the small-scale rural women farmers of Mbabala Constituency in Zambia.

The introduction of Natural Agriculture unlocked the indigenous memory of the local people as well as the indigenous memory of the local seed. There are now 6000 farmers involved in NADPZ using and saving indigenous seed to grow tasty crops that have strong roots and are better adapted to the local climate and drought conditions than commercial seed.

The stories shared by Shinya and Barbara illustrate how Natural Agriculture can foster a grower’s trust in Nature, and provide an alternative to controlling natural systems with fertiliser, seed modification, monocropping etc. 

REFLECTIONS ON ORFC24 SESSIONS WITH SATISH KUMAR

The three talks with Satish led me to wonder what difference Soul can make to the real food and farming movement. I invite you to come up with your own ideas. Here are a couple of my thoughts based on the above:

The difference can already be seen at events such as ORFC, where the stories shared are love stories; it is for the love of Nature, people and community that we are working hard to make food and farming make a difference, whether it be in an office, field, kitchen or community centre. When we appreciate the difference people are already making to this movement it can invite gratitude alongside an empowering sense of community. People do care and we can do this together. 

Further, paying attention to Soul qualities can show us their value. For example, from Satish’s sessions I was reminded that Trust is a Soul quality that opens up opportunities to strengthen local food ecosystems. We can trust the memory of indigenous seeds to produce resilient crops. We can trust the soil. We can set up honesty boxes to sell eggs. We can engage in Community Support Agriculture and trust the growers to produce food for us. 

The real food and farming movement can also benefit from creating space for Soul reflections, such as the 10 minutes at the SDG0 session described above. Creating this space provides an opportunity to tune in with our purpose, and ground our values in our work towards food system change. Creating space for discussion around Soul can also change mindsets. Just having the conversation may open us up to new ideas and ways of seeing the world, fuelling creativity around food and farming practices. 

Imagine a world where Soul unites Soil and Society, where food and farming is imbued with qualities such as love, compassion, solidarity, trust, joy. Perhaps feeding the Soul of the real food and farming movement will help us get there. 

Joanne is a community food activist with a particular interest in fungi. She has a MSc Food Security and Permaculture Design Certificate. Based in Donegal Ireland, Joanne works as a facilitator and runs mushroom cultivation workshops. She is also looking to help build the local food network in NW Ireland. Follow her mushroom work on Instagram @mycocraic

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