Raised bed with feverfew and morning glories Amaranthus and sunflowers Raised bed with morning glories Solitary sunflower
“God's presence can be revealed in a flower on the side of the road if a person's mind is open.” Shumei Natural Agriculture

Case Study:

Shumei Natural Agriculture Farm

Goal: Make it pretty, so beautiful that visitors will feel that it is such a beautiful and special place that they want to come back again and again.

The Shumei NA Farm in Maplecrest, New York was a working farm based on Shumei's Natural Agriculture, a spiritual method of farming. I was hired to envision and implement the farm's landscape design in order to attract and accommodate visitors to the farm. To prepare for the project, I worked alongside Farmer Kenji Ban for one day on the farm, helping to transplant green onions and hoping to gather a feel for the place and also the NA methodology. Shumei prefers to call farming a practice; Shumei members consider farming a spiritual act. Nature is perfect and that plants are conscious beings.

Following the geometry of the fields

The organizing inspiration was the farm's inherent agricultural vernacular — the geometry of the fields. I tweaked the geometry to enlarge and highlight the rectilinear aspect. Tractor paths doubled as walking paths. Every part was to be of use to the farmer. No gratuitous space. For instance, I sowed several long rows of various sunflowers in between two crop hoop houses. While the sunflowers were lovely to behold, Kenji was also able to harvest the flower stalks to sell at the market in Hunter or as part of the CSA. The existing crop field geometry left a large space of wild grasses in the middle of the fields, which would be left to grow until Kenji cut for mulch. The tractor paths bisected this field — reminiscent of the old worn tractor paths so common in the Catskills. Two round stone planters were constructed in this field and planted with edible flowers and herbs. Visitors, if they so desired, were able to reach out and snip off Gigante d'Italia parsley, calendula, holy basil, nasturtium, borage, lemon balm, feverfew, English thyme, savory and German chamomile.

No chemicals or fertilizers

I was careful to incorporate Shumei ideals of absolutely no chemicals or fertilizers, starting plants from seed and encouraging a connection to the place. I gardened without gloves, each seed was sown by bare hand whether in a seed starting tray or directly into the soil row. Every single plant that existed in the round herb planters was started from organic seed on the farm.

“Native” rocks provided structure

The field borders were planted with a native wildflower (Lupine, Liatris spicata, Leucanthemum, Rudbeckia, yarrow, Ascelpias tuberosa) mix to encourage pollinators. Native grasses to edge bluestone walkways. Catskill soil is notoriously rocky; there were several cairns of rocks that Kenji had harvested from the fields while making them friable. We took these rocks and edged the farm's Visitor Center with them. To visually extend the reach of the farm outside of its fences, I planted one bed alongside the main entry walkway with pumpkins and scarlet runner beans, strawflowers and nasturtiums.

Resources

  • Farming to Create Heaven on Earth by Lisa M. Hamilton
  • The Message in a Seed: Guidelines for Peaceful Living by Dena Merriam
  • www.shumei.org
  • www.shumei-na.org
leaf pattern