BFP #3: Farm Together with Nature
The Bomunsan Forest Protocols (BFPs) are concepts for the ecological cities of tomorrow, according to the wisdom of our elder trees.
All the previous days in his farming career, Famer Bo had woken up, walked to the hill from his home in the city, stood in front of his field, bowed once, and began the day’s work. This is the custom in this valley after all, as one might suppose it is in many other similar valleys. Today at first, seemed no different from those previous days. Famer Bo did the same things he had always done. He got up at dawn. He walked to the hill. He stood in front of the field and bowed once. But as Bo slowly came up out of the deep bow this morning, a Magpie cawed, and he noticed it. He noticed it with a radical clarity. The sound rang around in this balding man’s head, and although his eyes were closed, his mind exploded with color like he had never known.
Bo was afraid to open his eyes. Afraid that when he did, the color would still be there in front of him. “Is this what it is like to go crazy? Or, maybe I am going blind. Should I stumble down the hill to an optometrist, or a hospital? No no. I should stay here with my eyes closed. But then what? That ain’t no good. If I never open my eyes again, it would be the same as being blind, wouldn’t it?” The Magpie cawed again. Startled out of his mind game, Bo finally opened his eyes.
The Magpie swooped down, landing on the bare soil in front of Bo. The bird cocked its head and looked up, right into the eyes of the old farmer. Bo blinked, multiple times, unsure of what he was seeing. The Magpie looked down, kicked at the rocks, then pecked a hole in the plastic barrier between the living world and the hard soil below. Dust came up. Bo silently nodded.
If one were casually passing by at this moment it would seem as though the man and the Magpie were engaged in a casual conversation about the soil. Although the farmer did not register any logical thoughts at the moment, perhaps a conversation was indeed taking place.
However it was, the Magpie soon took flight back into the city, leaving Bo expressionless, staring first at the soil, and then into the farm. Then, for somewhere on ten minutes this old man then stood watching the Tomato, Eggplant, and Korean Peppers. Sprouting out of a dry, plastic-bound soil, the plants were glistening with dew and he loved them. Bo had always cared about his plants, but in this moment, his sense of care and responsibility felt expanded, not only to that Magpie, or to the soil, or the food plants, but to all of the plants and lifeforms in the field.
If poisoned weeds, bare soil, sterile seeds, and life-killing sprays are the standard by which food is grown, the earth struggles. It struggles to support the farmer. It struggles to support other lifeforms in and around the farm. It struggles to fulfil its role as part of the life support system on this planet. “Such a way of farming might ensure the continuation of the chemical and seed manufacturers for some years,” Bo posited, “but it ultimately ensures the destruction of humanity while it’s at it.”
Though Bo did not know much about what the world calls natural farming or regenerative agriculture, the lifeforms in the field — soon growing more numerous by the week — helped show him the way. After the plastic ground cover went away, weeds were given haircuts in just the right place at the right time, and a diverse living ground cover of clover, vetch, and dozens of other edible plants spread around much of the field in between the crops. Seeds no longer came from the profit-driven laboratories, but from Bo’s own field and from exchanges with other farmers and seed banks in the region. Pest control was not taken care of by killing, but by promoting such a diversity of life including trees and shrubs, that pests no longer had the chance to become as pesky.
Years later this wise old man found that if there is enough diversity of plant and animal life in a field, and if you get into a proper relationship with this diversity of life, you will find ways to make a living in this world, and to grow more than enough food while also allowing other forms of life to live. After joining the team with nature, Bo found that answers for sustainable, resilient, climate-change-fighting urban food abound.
And this is all part of the reason why:
Food Flourishes when your relationship to nature does. Bugs and weeds are not enemies, and seed freedom is your freedom.
Our cities deserve delicious, local, sustainable food that supports the health of people and the environment. We know how to get there. Now we just need to make the choice, to meet nature, and to grow food in ways that enhance this nature’s wellness, as it does our own.
WHAT IS A BFP? The Bomunsan Forest Protocols (BFPs) were developed as part of A City Designed by Trees, an ecological exhibition commissioned for the 2022 Daejeon Biennale ‘City Project’. The protocols suggest urban planning concepts that 1) are ecologically sound, and 2) can help facilitate communication between humans and nature in the long-term.
Though they are inspired by the forests in and around Bomunsan in Daejeon Korea, these protocols also echo the findings of countless wisdom traditions and scientific inquiries worldwide and are broadly applicable to many cities. We encourage you to share them, and also to transform and adapt them to your own urban ecological conditions.
If you enjoyed this writing, please help it spread by sharing it…
Thanks to all of you lovely subscribers! For those who are not yet subscribed, you can do that below. Both free and paid subscriptions get you the same content because that is how I roll. However, paying something does help me dedicate more time to doing the writing/research/illustration which in turn, makes this whole thing better. I am grateful for that help.
The Possible City is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.