Tribute to Larry Korn

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Larry Korn 1948-2019
Free Webinar posted as a Tribute to Larry

We are saddened by the recent passing of our friend, Larry Korn. He is best known for being the translator/editor of one of the most influential books to touch the lives of scores of natural farmers and permaculturists,  The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka.

Why is this book so influential?
The Middle East and Northern Africa were once very fertile areas. With widespread annual tilling/plowing, a civilization will always end up losing it’s topsoil and become arid. One-half of the topsoil has now be washed away on the North American continent. The One-Straw Revolution shows us how annual grain growing can be done without tillage so that we can grow food WHILE building topsoil!

Larry was one of the teachers of the PDC Course I took in 2004 and I credit him for cementing my understating and passion for permaculture. He was a walking example of kindness, integrity, knowledge and dedication.

Larry Korn (L), Permaculture Mentor to Bill Wilson and Midwest Permaculture

Larry was so knowledgeable and generous that in the early days of Midwest Permaculture we consulted with him often on a wide range of subjects, and when available we would invite him to attend or call into our courses. We wanted our students to hear the wonderful story of how he came to meet Masanobu Fukuoka, live on his farm for two years, take on the task of translating The One-Straw Revolution into English and then, couriering it through to publication.

Larry (standing far right) teaching with us at the Sivananda Yoga Farm PDC Course in Grass Valley, CA, 2008

Larry’s story was so impactful to the few who got to learn from him that we decided to record one of his live telephone interviews and then included it into our Foundations of Permaculture Webinar Series so that all of our students could now learn from Larry’s teachings. The webinar series is the pre-training materials for all of our PDC Courses.

Now, well over 1,000 permaculture students have heard this webinar.

As a token of our gratitude to Larry we would like to gift this webinar interview (video includes many pictures) to the greater permaculture community. It runs 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Here is to your memory Larry, and a million “Thank You’s” for all you did for so many. 

Recorded 2008 for a Midwest Permaculture PDC Course

Below are a few highlights from Larry’s story should you not have the time to listen to the webinar.

As a college student in the 1970’s, Larry had an interest in farming, intentional-community living and Asian studies. This led him to living in a farming commune in Japan where he heard about an unconventional farmer who had not turned his soil in over 20 years.

Larry sought this farmer out, Masanobu Fukuoka, and ended up living on his farm in southern Japan for two years while learning about his unique farming methods.  Larry lived in one of the mud-walled huts in Mr. Fukuoka’s orchard and performed farm chores with the other workers and students.

Larry (L) sharing a meal with fellow workers/residents/students of Masanobu Fukuoka. Almost everything they ate came off of the farm. Many vegetables eventually grew wild in the orchard as part of the understory.
Masanabu Fukuoka shared meals, work and his philosophy with all who worked with him.

The paradigm shift of One-Straw Revolution was Masanobu Fukuoka’s technique of never turning the soil while still being able to get two annual crops per year off his land — rice and barley.  Growing annual grains WITHOUT TILLING was completely unheard of in 1975 and was considered not possible to do. This is why Larry had to find and learn from this amazing farmer.

Masanobu Fukuoka planting his rice seeds into a tall stand of barley in late May.
The planting consisted of mixing the rice into small clay balls and broadcasting these into an existing crop of barley. The seeds would lay mostly dormant within the clay balls until the barley was harvested and it’s straw scattered back on to the field. Then the field was flooded for about a week when the rice would germinate while the perennial clover that always covered the field was set back because of the flooding conditions which the rice loved.
A week after the water was drained away, the clover bounces back but by this time the rice is up and running and soon shades out the nitrogen fixing legume.
By the end of August the rice is tall and lush which will be ready for harvest in early October when it turns yellow. Before then, Masanobu Fukuoka will broadcast the winter barley into the rice stand just like he had planted the rice into the barley stand the previous May using his seed balls.  The barley begins to grow slowly on the floor of the rice stand but once the rice is harvesting and the light reaches the soil again, the barley now jumps to life establishing a living cover for the winter months of freezing temps, snow and ice. Come early spring the barley comes in thick and lush and shades out almost all of the weeds. In May, the seeding of rice begins once again and the process is repeated. Two harvests in one year!

It was during Larry’s time on the farm that Masanobu Fukuoka published his book, The One-Straw Revolution in Japanese.

With the assistance of others, Larry translated the book into English. Notice the Corona typewriter sitting on the far table. All of this work had to be done without the help of computers.
Once back in the US, Larry was able to garner the support of Wendell Berry to assist with editing who also had a connection with Robert Rodale (publisher of Organic Farming magazine) who took up publishing it through Rodale Press. This is a fascinating story contained within the webinars.

How does this relate to the world of permaculture?
It was Larry who introduced Masanobu Fukuoka to Bill Mollison!

The first permaculture book was written by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren – called Permaculture One.  As we understand it, Bill was often asked why there was no information in the book on the growing of annual crops and his reply? “We do not yet know how to do annual farming without the tilling soil which prepares a seedbed and slows down weeds.”

Bill Mollison teaching the first permaculture course hosted in the US.
Here is Larry attending that course. It was Larry who introduced Mollison to the work of Masanobu Fukuoka and The One-Straw Revolution. 

As a result of this introduction, when Mollison penned the book, Permaculture Two, therein lies many references to Masanobu Fukuoka and the pioneering work he had done with to-till farming.

After the book was published, Larry hosted Masanobu Fukuoka on multiple tours of the US. Here they are together in Los Angeles, California.
It was at the 1986 International Permaculture Convergence hosted in Olympia, Washington, that these two great men met for the first time and Larry was their interpreter.

Without the work and dedication of Larry Korn, the reverent farming approach of Masanobu Fukuoka may have never reached Westerner’s eyes  and the early history of permaculture might have been very different indeed.

It is with great love and appreciation that we honor your life and work Larry. Rest well our friend.

Larry Korn, 1948-2019



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