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Nature Farming in Amish Horticulture: a practical theology

Updated on March 21, 2013
Dr. Haddox profile image

Degrees: 1) Oakland U., 2) Michigan State U (College of Human Medicine), 3) George Washington U. (Medicine), Vanderbilt U. (Divinity School)


Nature farming: Amish horticulture: a practical theology

This Hub contains the first two section (the Preface and the Introduction) of a book that I am writing called "Nature Farming in Amish Horticulture: a practical theology. This is a serious book being written for serious readers. I am only publishing these two sections in Hubpages to get an idea if readers, or follows, really want to complete this book in the context of Hubpages. I want to do the complete book, chapter by chapter, as Hubs, only if there is a want or a need for this knowledge. You, the readers, will have to give me feedback, to let me know if this kind of knowledge is needs. I look forward to your feedback, soon. Thank you. Dr. Haddox


 Nature Farming in Amish Horticulture: a practical theology




     It seems that the importance of horticulture increases yearly, not only in rural farming applications, but in urban farming applications as well. Commercial farming practices have always valued horticulture, but in the present economical climate, where quality food is hard to come by, more households located in cities are growing foods in kitchen gardens, and edible landscapes are becoming more commonplace.

     This discourse, Nature Farming in Amish Horticulture: a practical theology, envisions an approach to food production that enables families who live within rural areas or within cities to achieve success. At some point within this work approaches to gardening will be discussed. Approaches to gardening include organic farming, conventional farming, biodynamic farming, and Nature farming. The author is a Nature farmer because of the training that he received while living in Japan for four years but his farm also adheres to and promotes recommendations found within the USDA’s “organic standard,” a document, or set of rules that certified organic farmers are required to live by.

     Nature farming is most definitely a “practical theology,” more so, than any other approach to farming. By design, Nature farming is a practical theology. The concept of a practical theology can be a difficult one to define or to talk about outside of a formal theological context. Even full time theological scholars grapple with definitions and work relating to practical theology. A working definition of practical theology that I am borrowing from an unknown scholar is as follows, “Practical Theology” is a way of doing theology. It begins with a practical concern that comes out of experience, engages that concern in dialogue with the religious tradition and the culture, and through that dialogue discerns wisdom that leads to transformative action.”

     Nature farming is a concept that was conceived by Mokichi Okada (1882-1955) in Japan. It was on January 1, 1935 that he shared with the world his vision of the creation of a new civilization. His idea for this new civilization was that it should not be specific to one region or ethnic group, but must bring permanent peace and happiness to all human beings all across the world. Mr. Okada, in his life’s work, was able to identify medicine, agriculture, and art as the three areas of major significance in the building of a new civilization. Nature farming has evolved from this work that Mr. Okada left behind for us to complete.

     This publication, Nature farming in Amish Horticulture: a practical theology, contains complex ideas that have proceeded from several different belief systems and these ideas cannot be completely elaborated upon within a few pages, or within a scientifically and theologically limited literature of this nature. For example, my experiences within the small Amish agricultural consortium that was formed for me for my personally, for my own education, and that I have worked within for a number of years, could take hundreds of pages to elaborate upon. This is not to mention the educational theories that I have had to learn, while studying doctoral level courses, in order to understand what I was looking at. Therefore, it is not to our advantage for me to spend valuable space within this publication dealing with my experiences within the Amish education system and the like. Consider it sufficient to say that there is a definite relationship between Nature farming and Amish farming and these similar approaches to agriculture permeates both the Nature farming culture and the Amish culture. There are major differences in the two cultures, however, and as an educator, this is where one can find the greatest value and meaning in this work. This author finds joy in the work of Mokichi Okada as it relates to the concept of a new civilization or a new world order.

     As the global economy has suffered and quality foods have become less accessible to the working poor and a stressed middle class, families have opted for ways of producing a portion of their own foods. Field crop production and large farm animal production are beyond the scope of urban or suburban family production means, for the most part. On the other hand, the small scale production of fruits and vegetables are within their means. Ideas and methodologies found within the pages of this publication aims to help families in their effort to grow quality, Nature farmed foods.

     The present trend in the increased production and consumption of quality produced fruits and vegetables will continue, with no end in sight, providing more outlets for horticultural products. There is a new and increased opportunity for those who will learn to produce and market horticultural crops efficiently, using Nature farming methods (which are organic and beyond because of a spiritual orientation). This book will talk about Nature farming as the author has seen it practiced in Japan, and as it is practiced subconsciously, among a number of Amish families. You will read how Nature farming compares to Organic farming and you will read and understand how the approach that some Amish families take to farming compares in some ways to Nature farming. When one understands Nature farming and how to practice it, one is able to produce quality, organic foods that nourish the mind, body and soul. The spirituality of Nature farming, actually a practical theology, sets it apart from regular organic farming. Living in Japan for a number of years, at the base of Mount Fuji, and studying theology at the Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School for a graduate degree, helped the author to better understand the practical theology of Nature farming. It is very good that one can take up Nature farming, as one takes up any other method of farming, such as biodynamic farming or organic farming, without having to worry about completely understanding or mastering complex theories.

     This writer lives and farms in Middle Tennessee, (in the South) where farmers are famous for growing horticultural products. We know that the South produces a good measure of our citrus fruits and the South also produces a lion’s share of our country’s vegetables (we don’t want to overlook California of course). Our nation’s winter vegetables come from California, Mexico and other locations however, but the South still produces a good measure of our country’s winter crops.

     Mamushi Nature Farm, the author’s farm that is located in Franklin, Tennessee produces many of the vegetables and fruits that grow well in the South. Recently, fig trees have been planted and have managed to survive one of Tennessee’s worse winters. Apples, peaches, pecans, figs, watermelons, berries, and other horticultural commodities are produced successfully in the South and in other regions of the U.S.A.

     Value added processing methods can be taken advantage of by families who have small gardens and orchards. Processing methods will enable small gardeners to meet many of their food needs on an all-year, rather than on a seasonal basis. Foods can be canned, dried, or frozen for storage. Amish families are masters at putting away, or storing foods. Extra “value added” products can be sold to the public producing extra cash during these trying times.

     We must not overlook two major reasons why the markets for home grown foods are expanding. They are: (1) the United States of America is growing rapidly each year; (2) individuals from all cultural backgrounds are eating more fruits and vegetables as we become more knowledgeable of the health benefits of eating quality products. People are obtaining new knowledge of nutrition which has increased their interest in horticultural foods. People know that fruits and vegetables must be included in their diets; that these foods are essential for the maintenance of optimum health.

     We all should strive to maintain vigorous health. Vigorous health demands fruits and vegetables. It goes without saying that every farm must have, and as many city and suburban homes as possible must have, gardens and orchards. This way, it is possible for most families to have an abundant supply of health-sustaining foods. Equally important, in so doing, these gardens and orchards will provide foods at the lowest possible cost. This way, enough foods can be produced, without difficulty, to provide a year-around supply.

     My travels around the U.S.A., and travels in Japan, have given me the opportunity to talk to people about efficient food production and food preservation. Food preservation for home use is not a difficult process but care must be taken to insure that simple food safety rules are adhered to. Some communities have freezer locker plants and community canning plants available for members. When community members ban together and work in a cooperative fashion, large quantities of food can be packed in a short period of time. Noteworthy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) has a community food system that is best example that can be found in the greater global community. It is recommended that church groups or any community group that is interested in putting together a world class community survival system look at the Mormons system in order to get an idea of how to achieve an effective and sustainable system. Why reinvent the wheel when all the ground work has already been done for you and a workable foundation is available for the asking? There are websites available to help you facilitate this process.

     Acknowledgements are due to my stepfather, Robert Baker Owen, who was an excellent farmer, who died February 21, 2009, and to my mother Vivian Owen. They were my first horticulture teachers. Acknowledgements also are due to Amish farmers, Nature farmers, organic farmers, and many traditional farmers, who have taught me the art and science of farming. Special credit is due to professors, too numerous to mention by name, who taught me art, science, medicine, and theology, at Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, at the University of Detroit, Detroit, Michigan, at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, at Michigan State University (The College of Human Medicine), at George Washington University (The College of Medicine and the Health Sciences( where I graduated summa cum laude in 1988)), and Vanderbilt University (The Divinity School) where I earned a graduate degree in theological studies. The great wisdom, knowledge and experience that one has achieved is magnified when one pass it on the next generations.



     My family has farmed for more than 100 years, producing quality foods to eat for themselves, while at the same time, providing foods for their neighbors to eat. We consider all people within the global community, those who live both far and near, our neighbors. Making a living on the farm is a difficult life, but it provides an honest and honorable way to provide for one’s family and for others.

     This discourse, Nature Farming in Amish Horticulture: a practical theology, has been conceived as a tool that can be used to teach urban farmers (gardeners and tree grower), how to practice Nature farming. Nature farming is organic farming that has a spiritual basis as a foundation for its existence. This book is not a “religious book,” but it is a spiritual book. It is spiritual in the same sense that a “Three Sister’s (Native American) garden is a spiritual garden. As you read my work and get into my thinking about Nature farming and about “life” in general, you will come to appreciate a new, global approach to Agriculture, and an approach to foods in general, that you never knew existed.

The concept of “the garden” is thousands of years old. When you work the earth around your trees or other plants you partake of a practice that goes back to the beginning of humankind. Even from the beginning, gardens have been sanctuaries for those who have had the occasions to visit them. Caretakers of gardens have special relationships with gardens that they care for. But all who visit gardens, whether they are caretakers or not, have an opportunity to behold the gardens and to become whole, or complete, or healthy because of the experience. There is power is nature and in the gardens that exist in nature.

     There is a hymn that was written years ago, even before I was born, called “I Come to the Garden Alone.” You have probably heard of it, it not, here is an opportunity to read its lyrics, as follows:


I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And he tells me I am his own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,

Is so sweet that the birds hush their singing,

And the melody that He gave to me

Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him

Though the night around me be falling,

But He bids me go; through the voice of woe

His voice to me is calling.

(Note: the refrain (which begins with He walks with me, and He talk with me) is sung after every stanza)

One does not have to be a very religious person, in the Christian traditions in order to appreciate the power of this hymn that is based on an experience in the garden. The example that the author of this hymn gives to us is only one of many, many stories that gardeners have shared with me about their spiritual experiences in their gardens, down through the years. When one considers the quality, tasty foods that one obtains from the garden, words do not exist to describe the experience.

     As a part of this introduction it is important for me to write about a definition of horticulture. Horticulture is a division of agriculture. Horticulture is a combination of two words, hortus, meaning wall, and cultura, meaning to till or cultivate. These two Latin words refer to a farming practice that go back to the days of the Roman Empire. Back in those days a farm was divided into two parts, which were separated by a wall. Inside the wall, “horticultural crops” were grown; outside, the “field crops” were produced. Ager is the Latin word for field; consequently, agriculture means, literally, the cultivation of fields.

     Today, as we use the word, agriculture embraces all farming occupations; it includes all crops and enterprises. Horticulture is one branch, division or segment of agriculture.

     It is interesting and important, in thinking about the origin of the word horticulture, to realize that many centuries ago in the days of the Roman Empire  the  horticultural crops, that is, the gardens and the orchards, were located near the farm family, while the field crops were produced “outside the wall.” This nearness was not merely a matter of convenience; it seems to suggest that the horticultural crops had a closer relationship to the welfare of the farm family. From the standpoint of the contribution that the horticultural crops make to farm family living, this close relationship still exists. Fruits and vegetables constitute a major portion of our total food requirements.

     Noteworthy, Japanese Nature farmers and my Amish friends display this same close relationship with their horticultural crops. Concepts that exist in a practical theological approach to farming can be actively noted when one study these relationships. It is a wonderful experience, doing horticulture, when one has a sense of Nature farming and when one is able to enjoy eating the quality produce that results from their efforts.

     It is important that we do not confuse urban farming with commercial farming. Farmers like myself and the Amish farmers, are full time farmers who farm for a living. We have our own farms and earn our living from agricultural enterprises. The urban farmer, on the other hand, makes a living working a job, or running their own business, outside of an agricultural enterprise usually. The farm family, who operates a farm business on the farm, provides agricultural commodities for sale, in addition to growing foods for home use. Urban farmers usually are interested in growing foods for home use but have an opportunity to sale the excess produce that come from their gardens.

     This publication will provide you with information on growing peaches, pecans, grapes, apples, figs, citrus fruits, dewberries, blackberries, strawberries, melons, tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, potatoes, and okra. From time to time this book will up graded and expounded on. As you read the book the author would appreciate any feedback that you want to provide to him in order to make the book a better reference in the future.


Growing Tomatoes

     The tomato is one of the most widely grown of all garden crops. It is adapted to practically all the soil types ranging from the heavy clays to the mucks and light drifting sandy soils. The tomato has a place in every home vegetable garden, especially in the South, and should be included in every urban garden unless family members are allergic to plant or its fruit.


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    • Dr. Haddox profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Freddie Haddox 

      7 years ago from a Franklin, Tennessee native, who travels globally.

      Dear KiwiTeam,

      Thank you for your kind comment. By the way, I am proud of the your work, that is, your writing, and I look forward to following you as you move forward.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice HUB!

    • Dr. Haddox profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Freddie Haddox 

      7 years ago from a Franklin, Tennessee native, who travels globally.

      Thank you for your kind words of praise.

      I am truly happy to know that you approve of thIs idea for a book.

      As always, your friendship is appreciated.

      And as always, I pray that you have Love, Joy and Hope, and an abundant life. Dr. Haddox

    • thebluestar profile image

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      This hub is so informative and well written, it was a real treat for the senses to read. Although factual based, this hub was as easy to read and enjoy as any fiction book I have read before. Your ability to teach your readers through word alone is awesome. Good luck with the book.


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