Sunday, September 18, 2011

Satoyama: Japan's Sustainable Farming Philosophy

Roaming the hills and byways of Shropshire these past weeks means steeping myself in one of England's loveliest areas. Full of farms and fields outlined with deep green hedges and dark stone walls and dotted with sheep and hay bales it's easy to see how something like the Ludlow Food Festival could bloom here.

And it's got me thinking about all things agricultural, especially as an article I recently wrote about satoyama, a traditional Japanese farming practice, for Eco+Waza is still rolling through my mind. The slightly wild edge of well-ordered fields, satoyama is often thought of as a managed forest ring around farm fields. Trees would be harvested for fuel as well as construction, while wild animals also used it as a food and shelter source. It would have been carefully used as a kind of common space by everyone in the village, but always with an eye out for avoiding overuse. Destruction of even one part of the system would mean a collapse of the whole. My scavenging of raspberries, sloes, and damsons from the hedgerows as we walk the footpaths, ancient right of ways as one of my friends said recently, lacing the region is perhaps a (delicious!) way to partake in a similar tradition here.

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