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At California Organic Farm, Seeking Enlightenment Through Organic Gardening

The U.S. Agriculture Department says organic farming is one of the fastest growing segments of the nation's farm economy.  The government says organic growers rely on ecologically-based practices in cultivating fruits and vegetables and they virtually exclude the use of synthetic chemicals.  VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Muir Beach, California, where one farm combines organic methods with meditative techniques from Asia. 

The ancient teachings of Zen Buddhism and the art of organic gardening are the inspiration behind the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, outside San Francisco.

Wendy Johnson, 60,  spent 25 years working here, seeking enlightenment through hard work and meditation.

"Everybody has some sense of the garden or farming as being meditative," she says. "Sometimes we ask ourselves, is this a safe haven from the world?  Or, is it a field of action?  And I think it's, of course, both."

Johnson has written a book on her experiences called Gardening at the Dragon's Gate.

"We're not talking about gardening really slowly and enjoying each breath and then planting a seedling and then leaning back and looking at the sky," she says.   "Some people may love to do that in their garden.  Working rhythmically and full-on, but having a sense and relaxation that comes at the end of the day from doing work you love and doing it well."

At the Green Gulch Center, she says farmers here coax leeks, kale and cabbage from the ground, nurturing the soil and surrounding environment.  She also takes time for some self nurturing, with quiet reflection and meditation.

Sara Tashker, 29,  manages the farm.  A former political activist, she says she now finds fulfillment through responsible farming.

"So, to take responsibility of my footprint on the Earth and where I'm eating, and where my garbage goes, seemed to be more meaningful for me than trying something on a grander scale," she says.

Wendy Johnson says that growing organic crops is a way to grow spiritually and cultivate your own character.
 
"I never say I manage the garden.  The garden really manages me," she says.  "That's for sure."

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