My name is Panos Manikis. I was born in Northern Greece in Thessaloniki and I came to this place around 30 years ago, looking for a farm. Since 1989 I’ve been growing vegetables, fruit trees and grains in the natural farm that I created.
Feel free to speak about yourself and philosophy of Natural Farming…
Although I have studied agriculture at university level, I could say that my profession is not of a farmer. I wouldn’t like to call myself neither natural farmer nor a scientist, but rather someone who wants to sow seeds in the desert, someone who tries to sow seeds in the human heart. I have started this path around 40 years ago and when I came to this region in Northern Greece near the town of Edessa, my dream was that of creating a utopia and living there happily. But then in 1993, after I had sent to Fukuoka a book translated into Greek language ‘The Natural Way of Farming’, I received back from Fukuoka another book, which was ‘The Revolution of God: Man and Nature’. I remember that I read it in a feverish state and I understood that it would change my whole life. And from that time onwards, I could clearly see that my path is that of someone who wants to sow seeds in the desert. So since 1993, we started organizing small seedings. And then in 1998, after I had come into contact with Fukuoka, we decided to organize a 10.000 hectar seeding, and we had 3.000 people from all over the world. We organized the largest seeding ever on this planet with scientists, farmers and volunteers from all over the world, trying to change the climate in the region I live. Because if we manage to make a green mantle over an area of at least 10000 hectars, then the clouds will gather and rain will fall. Because as Fukuoka understood intuitively in 1981 when he was in the States, the rain doesn’t fall from the heaven, it springs forth from the ground. It’s the large leaves of the trees, it’s the high growing trees that will form more clouds and will call the rain.
After all these years that have been dedicated to this action of sowing seeds in the desert in Greece and in other countries, we had the economical crisis in Greece in 2007. I understood that it is very important now to make people aware of this crisis. It is not only a crisis on economy level, it is mainly a crisis in human relationships. And if we don’t change this, nothing can change. As Fukuoka used to say in the past when he was alive, if we want to make the deserts green, we have to solve all the problems of the world. Religious problems, nationalistic problems, all the problems of human relations… And since that time, we started travelling around Greece and in other countries of the world, in Argentina, in Spain, talking about self-sufficiency as the answer to this economical crisis; and more than that, to try to build harmonic human relations. Because as I used to say during lectures or in seminars and workshops we organized; it is very important to understand that the real wealth for human beings is not the gold, not the money we deposit in a bank, and if we speak about a country it’s not the gold but it’s the richness of nature, it’s the richness of human relationships. For that, we have to focus and use all our energy to change this bad situation. Nothing can be done, nothing can change if we don’t understand that we are responsible for what happens in society. We are the society, and if we change, society will change. So if we become aware of our responsibility, then it is very clear what we have to do. It is to work on the direction of building human relationships; and sow seeds in human hearts, in the deserts, in the barren mountains of the world, and to create natural farms where people can live happily, and change the whole planet into a Garden of Eden.
So in our region Edessa and in the Natural Farming Center, we organize workshops to show people how to grow their own food. But it’s not only that we are talking about self-sufficiency on food level. If we manage to grow our own food and become self-sufficient, we could easily see that health is in our hands, it is not in the doctors’. If we have natural food, if our mind is relaxed, then the health is accessible to all human beings. Because it’s unnatural to have diseases, men were born not to suffer from diseases and to live an unhappy life; men were born to enjoy perfect health. And if we manage to become self-sufficient even on health level, then the third step will follow, which is we don’t need masters or gurus to tell us about the truth, to speak about the truth. All human beings, each one of us can understand the things the way they are, can achieve the truth. Then, everything will change drastically within a few years, within a few months.
So it’s not only working on food level, organizing works to show people how to make their own bread with organic flour, how to make their own soap in a traditional way, how to learn about medicinal herbs and to have a practical pharmacy for their own homes, how to dry vegetables or other food… But it’s also working on building human relationships. That is the main goal, and all other things can easily be attained if we manage to build our harmonic relationships. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way for humanity and for individuals. Because although I’m a stupid man and despite my age – I am around 66 years old, I make many stupid things and I know that they will follow me up to the end of my life – there is one thing I have understood very clearly: What happens to all creatures is of utmost importance to my life, to my survival, to my quality of life. So I could easily say by changing a bit the poem in Hemingway’s book, that not only what happens to other human beings is very important to me, but also to all creatures in nature. So if people understand this, then the action will come very easily and things will change drastically, very quickly.
The natural farm in Edessa has reached its highest point. And now what remains for me as a man who serves nature and tries to build soil fertility is to realize in the end of October a large seeding to sow 100 different varieties of trees, bushes, vegetables, green manure plants and grains and let the nature take care of rest of the things. Then, it will be a farm for everybody. No people will be around, there will be no need to do any kind of work. Only harvesting the fruits and the gifts of nature; and it will be a farm for everybody to visit it, to enjoy it, and to enjoy the fruits of nature. If I manage to realize this point, then I will think I have concluded my course in this earth and I have proved practically that the philosophy of natural farming is not only a philosophy but a practical reality.
How did you start with Natural Farming?
It was at the age of 18 that the doctors told me I wouldn’t live a long life. I was suffering from a very serious disease and that was a real shock for me. I couldn’t accept the idea of dying very young. So after I have tried all the things they have told me, I came to understand that this medicine is a big mistake. It is unnatural to die from diseases and the real human situation is that of a perfect health. Then, thanks to a friend, I came into contact with a doctor and started a vegetarian diet. Within 6 months, I was a free man, a healthy man. And I came to understand that what I understood intuitively was not just out of fear of death, but it was the very reality that plants, animals and human beings can enjoy perfect health if they live in a healthy environment – and if we are speaking about human beings if their mind is healthy – and the food they eat is natural food. I started looking for people who have followed this path. And the second book that has fallen in my hands was ‘The One-Straw Revolution’, translated into English, written by Fukuoka. I remember I opened the book in a certain page, and I read only one passage and said ‘This is it. This is what I was looking for.’ And within a few months, I was in Japan, and I spent 6 months there with Fukuoka, learning from nature and from Fukuoka. And after I have worked in Brazil, in India, in Italy and other countries, I decided to go back to Greece to start my own farm. In 1989, I started my natural farm in Greece, trying – as I said – to create a small utopia there.
Can you tell us about climate and soil on your farm?
There is one thing that happens in the farm is that through this dense vegetation and the presence of many other green trees, bushes and plants, the climate within my farm is a kind of micro-climate. So I can even grow fruit trees that cannot grow in our region, for example mandarins and oranges. And I can even grow bananas in the future if I want to. And my goal is not to grow these crops and to sell them, but to prove this to the people practically that this is not the real climate where we live. The region now, around the town of Edessa, I believe that in the past was a tropical jungle. And one human being started cutting, using the axe; the forest trees, the jungle trees, then the climate changed, everything has changed. And so it is some kind of game, and for me it is of no surprise that even crops that need a warmer climate can grow here. And the more fertile the soil becomes, the healthier the plants, the bigger the crops, and the richer one can become this way. Because the natural farmer starts with building a rich soil, then creating healthy plants and the pocket also will be full, after that, with money. But this is not the real goal. The chemical farmers start from the money aspect, and then in the end they give up agriculture, because they destroy the soil fertility.
What is the “Natural Farming Center”?
We created the Natural Farming Center 8 years ago, and the intention and the goal was to have a place where we could receive volunteers, organize international meetings, and to make clayballs and to sow all over Greece and around the world. And so we organized international meetings with more than 200 people from 15 different countries from four continents. People learn how to make clayballs, learn about the new techniques of clayballs, about the new materials we use in order to have successful seedings. We are also organizing a school for self-sufficiency where people can learn how to grow their own food, how to make their own bread, to make their own soap, how to start walking in this very beautiful path: We could call it the self-sufficiency path. And so every year in the month of August the last ten days we organize meetings with people from all over the world and all over Greece. We make clayballs and we send these clayballs to all directions to create natural farms, to re-green the forests, to re-green the mountains; the barren mountains of Greece and not only. And also we travel around the world organizing practical seminars in different countries: In Italy, in Spain, in Germany, in Holland, in Argentina, in Turkey… We are offering this knowledge always free to the people. It’s very important to me not to sell this knowledge, because we got it as a gift from life and we should give it as a gift to all human beings. Money shouldn’t be involved. So all this sort of international meetings, all these things we organize; it’s free for everybody. And all the money that is necessary for this thing comes directly from the farm. That, I consider as a very important thing. And so there will be no obstacle to spreading this knowledge which should be free for everybody. So that is a few of the things we do in this Natural Farming Center, and very soon; in the months of September-October, we’ll start creating natural farms in Southern Greece which is a very barren area with very arid climate, and it’s very difficult to grow crops even with use of water. We will create natural farms only by making clayballs, using new materials, new techniques and trying to find the solution for the problem of desertification; and then spread it in other countries of the world: in Patagonia, in Argentina, in Chile and in other places, in Africa… And to show people how to re-green the deserts, how to call back the rain. And if it’s possible, to create a green belt that will start from Portugal, up to Iran, Irak, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean; to create two green belts, and to stop the expansion of desertification. Because although it seems very surprising, even Switzerland and Austria that are supposed to be green countries are already suffering from the change of the climate, the soil becomes less and less fertile and the green they have is an imitation green mostly. So we have to act very quickly because if the point of no return will come, then it will be too late to act. We have to sow these seeds as soon as possible. And all human beings should unite their efforts to that direction.
What are clayballs?
We could say that clayballs are the clayballs of hope and love. Hope for the creation of a paradise on Earth, and love for all human beings – for all beings. Because the forest we create through this spreading of a big variety of trees and bushes and annual plants, and green manure plants etc. is to serve not only human beings but also birds and animals. The forests that are created this way are for all beings. Clay is used as a basic material in these balls, we are also using zeolite to keep the moisture within the clayballs – the moisture from the rains of the atmosphere. We can use organic matter to give a minimum of nutrients to the newly born plant, the plant that has recently germinated and to support it in the very harsh conditions where it lives and also we can use fibers; coconut fibers, or sheep wool or human hair, or cotton fibers, to make a strong clayball that can even fall from the airplanes. And instead of using airplanes to kill innocent people we could use airplanes to scatter the clayballs all over the world and to change the world into a paradise. So these clayballs of love and hope should be sown as soon as possible, because when nature dies; God dies, human beings die.
Is there anything you would like to add?
When we were together with Fukuoka travelling around the world and trying to sow seeds in the desert, he always used to say (that was one of the few English phrases he used to say); “Hurry up, hurry up! We should hurry.” Not from the human point of view, the ‘time’ point of view; but from the point of view of nature’s time. Nature dies. And nature needs human beings with good will who wants to sow seeds in the desert who wants to sow to change the world into paradise. And so this “Hurry up! Hurry up!” is something I would ask from everybody. Let’s lose no time. Let’s sow seeds together. Let’s build human relationships, harmonic human relationships, because this is the real richness in life. Let’s build harmonic relationships with all creatures in the world. Let’s not see nature as an opponent, as an enemy. But let’s see nature as our mother. Because when we kill our mother, we kill ourselves. We kill all beings. That’s the only thing I’d like to say. Hurry up.
In October 2016 Panos will do one last big seeding in his farm and leave the land untouched for 3 years to let nature decide what to grow. He will continue his effort to bring Garden of Eden back on Earth.
This text is the script of an interview conducted with Panos Manikis, and shared on YouTube. You can find the link of the video below: