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 In 2004 Shumei partnered with Total Rural Development to create a model farm in Iba, the capital of the Zambales Province, located five hours north of Manila, Philippines. TRD is an NGO that focuses on local economic development by providing education and training programs to create self-reliant communities that can live in harmony with each other and the environment. Shumei worked with the TRD Institute to create a beautiful model farm to provide hands-on training on Natural Agriculture that demonstrates to TRD members a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable approach to food production and a way of living that was in harmony with nature.

Since 2004, the demonstration farm land has grown in size to 2.47 acres, including ½ acre of paddy field, ¼ acre of vegetable field, 3/8 acre of fruit trees, ½ acre of timbers, and 1/8 acre of pond.  The farm successfully produces a variety of crops all year round, including rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, papaya, pineapples, mangoes, and bananas. Other crops grown on the farm are sugar cane, lemons, okra, green beans, and tomatoes. Local Pilipino farmers manage the farm under the supervision of a Japanese Shumei farmer.

At the Shumei Iba farm, Natural Agriculture seminars are held regularly for visitors, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, agricultural cooperatives, university students, farmers, and schoolteachers.  Through raising awareness of the benefits of Natural Agriculture, neighboring farmers are beginning to adopt the Natural Agriculture method of rice production.  Educators are also seeing the value of Natural Agriculture and a private school in Manila, Temple Hill School, has incorporate Natural Agriculture into their school curriculum for the past two years.

Location: Iba, Province of Zambales, Philippines
Size: 2.47 acres (1-hectare)
Farm Owner: Total Rural Development
Established: January 2004

Feature Article
Natural Agriculture in My School
Mrs. Woellhaf, Temple Hill International School Chair

Through my many years of exposure and first hand experience as a Montessori Primary teacher, I have observed the wealth of knowledge, cognitive and creative development and values accomplished by our very young pupils even after only one or two years of attendance in the Montessori prepared environment.  Children who stayed longer with us showed even greater results in terms of comprehension of concepts, self-confidence, greater control of themselves both physically and emotionally, higher level of social skills, reinforced by a “wanting-to-learn attitude” in all areas.

Consequently, this observation posed a nagging question that had to be explored. “How much more can be achieved if we continue the children’s schooling past the pre-school level and provide them with such a rich and interactive framework and the best possible environment to nurture their still inquisitive minds and open hearts?” Thus, the Temple Hill International School was born in June 2001.  As we grow, today, we’re still exploring and expanding our horizon to confront the challenges presented.

In the same way that Maria Montessori observed and followed the natural development of the child in evolving the Montessori method, Shumei natural agriculture “mimics” or copies the natural ways of nature in working with the land to produce the fruits of the earth.

However, it is not too surprising that the concept of a farm education which is integrated in the curriculum is so far-fetched in the practice of most schools especially with the emphasis now on technology-oriented subjects. And yet perhaps, this is exactly what the students most need at this point in time – an opportunity to provide them with meaningful work, the ability to satisfy their need to be empowered, the chance to make practical decisions as well as plan their activities and carry them out in a group. Along the road, there will be occasions for them to see the consequences of their mistakes, rise from these and likewise be allowed the prospect to build, create, and rejoice in their accomplishments.

As we grow more into this natural system of agriculture, we envision that our students will likewise experience Nature as an absolute and total teacher.  By observing the natural movement and working together of the elements in nature; understanding the natural laws and interdependencies of all the creatures in nature including man and by simply facilitating its process we will be deeply helping our children to learn a profound respect for Nature. An attitude of partnership with the natural forces can then develop and not an egoistic feeling of dominance and greed over it. The desire to change and manipulate the plant’s natural growth process will be super ceded by trust and cooperation with the natural system of Nature. All these values can very easily be translated to human interactions and relationships.

Hence, the Shumei approach to agriculture as it emerges from the spiritual connection of man as a true steward of the land, responsible in preserving nature’s integrity and beauty  became the best approach that Temple Hill could follow in its desire to achieve harmonious relationship to God and nature.

We are grateful to the Shumei Organization that our students are starting to catch a glimpse and a taste of what is possible. That even if no pollutants are involved as they used their own compost, the plants grew stronger and sturdier and the insects do not thrive. They also enjoyed sampling the harvest which were sweeter, juicier more delicious and nutritious.

Finally, as the children continue to reap more and more the bounty of their physical labor and cooperation with the land, they will be able to market it in their country store to the neighboring community, and thus experience directly how to be a productive supplier to the economic system of a community. Viewed in its whole totality, the whole process actually becomes a practical learning for life.  In this way we can help manifest a better world with a more caring civilization, responsive to following the natural laws properly.  Then abundance, stability and happiness is a possible reality for all.

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