Natural Farming is the idea of creating abundance by mimicking nature, working with natural processes, rather than trying to control nature.
Korean Natural Farming, KNF, is a system of natural farming developed by Master Cho. His organization is Cho Global Natural Farming, CGNF. This system is has been practiced for about 40 years and has spread to at least 40 countries. KNF is a systemic, holistic approach. It is not a list of recipes, tips and techniques. It is based on the concept that agricultural practices can be undertaken with local materials on or near the farm. This translates into a system that is optimally free or at least very low cost. It is a system that includes both plants and animals.
The two basic precepts in KNF are:
- Soil Foundation
- Nutritive Cycle
Both must be practiced together for optimal results. We start first with Soil Foundation. This is done with the addition of IMO, Indigenous Micro Organisms, SOS, Soil soaking Solution, and mulching.
IMO is a locally (Indigenous) collected soil ecosystem. You may be able to identify a few of the countless species but this is not necessary. As long as you collect from a site of healthy soil, indicated by good plant growth and the visible presence of white leaf mold, you will have a complete ecosystem. Your culture will contain all matter of life forms, not just fungi & bacteria. The most important feature is that IMO is a complete, intact ecosystem.
The IMO culture is collected (IMO1), stabilized (IMO2), amplified (IMO3), then cultured into local soil (IMO4). The soil to be planted is inoculated with soil ecosystem culture by adding IMO4 along with the Soil Solution (SOS), which acts as a biological catalyst. The soil is then heavily mulched to protect the microbial communities and to suppress weeds.
IMO is also used as the foundation of animal bedding using an Inoculated Deep Litter System. The addition of IMO to animal feed and water insures a healthy immune system and prevents disease. Chickens, for example, grow incredibly long gut systems in comparison to commercially fed chickens. This enables them to eat and effectively digest any food source, as do wild jungle fowl. The abundance of beneficial microbes prevents pathogenic organisms from thriving and taking hold, both in the guts of animals and in the soil.
The nutritive cycle is based on taking biological processes, making them bio-available, and giving it to plants at the correct stage of life. While we would never feed steak to a newborn, that is what we are expected to do with modern conventional agriculture, with fertilizers added for the growing season when the plant is first planted. If weather or climatic conditions change, it’s too late to change the program. With KNF we are giving the correct formula at the right stage of life in a form that is directly available to plants. It is not “feeding” in the traditional sense. We are offering hormones, enzymes, co-factors and many other substances that enhance or even induce plant behaviours. Plants are typically sprayed once per week with a formula that induces what we want the plant to do. This way we attend to a plants needs as conditions change. Many chemical reactions plants undergo are not in the soil but on the surface of the leaves.
To explain the Nutritive Cycle we start with small baby plants. For young growing plants we collect the meristem, the growing tip of fast growing herbaceous plants, making *FPJ, Fermented Plant Juice. (*FPJ for growth formulas must be collected before sunlight while plant is respiring, not photosynthesizing. All other inputs can be collected any time of day.) This signals the plants, with hormones, enzymes etc. that it is time to grow. Just before the plant starts to make flower buds we start to introduce a Fermented Flower Juice, made from wildly fermented flowers. Once fertilized and the plant is about to form fruit, we offer FFJ, Fermented Fruit Juice, assisting the formation of fruit. Ripe fruit ferments can then be used to ripen the fruit. In summary, the Nutritive Cycle is giving a weekly (fermented, bio-available) input made from the next stage of life (flower juice just before buds occur, fruit juice just before fruits appear, ripe fruit juice to help a green fruit ripen, and growth juice to bring a plant back to life or get it started growing).
This technique can also be used to transfer other growth patterns from one plant to another. For example, if you have a plant that is stunted, with short nodes, and want the plant to grow more between nodes, opening up the plant, then find a plant that grows long and leggy, make a fermented plant juice from it, and add it to the weekly spray of the stunted plant. You don’t have to know that gibberellin is the hormone with this effect. You only have to see and use the pattern.
For perennial plants the nutritive cycle is used cyclically, typically over annual cycles if that is how the plant grows. Once the fruit is harvested the plant is given growth formula again.
The KNF system was developed for small family farms in Korea, with animals and crops, with as little work as possible. The idea is to let nature do most of the work. The system is scalable from small gardens to large commercial operations. It can be adapted to any climate. Master Cho has been able to grow trees in areas with essential no rainfall. The microbes themselves act as a water reserve and condensation is enough to establish plant systems. This is a great system for drought tolerance and is just as effective at solving issues with plentiful, excessive rain.
KNF is not as hard as it sounds. The techniques are important to insure aerobic inputs. Humans are part of aerobic life. Most pathogens are anaerobic. All inputs in KNF are edible. In fact, many are used by people on a daily basis. Why add something toxic to plants or animals that are part of your food system? The quality of the results are a direct result of the quality of the inputs. Keep in mind that this is a system, not a collection of recipes. The recipes on their own might be helpful, but the results in using the KNF system is one of health and abundance, for plants, for animals, and for humans. Korean Natural Farming is a system for abundance, health, reduction of the work load and economic expense, and quality of life.