Photo by Valerie Shelton – Bruno Luconi shows off the herb garden at MOA.
By Valerie Shelton, Editor
Be a good steward of the land and the land will give back in abundance—that is the philosophy practiced at the MOA Oasis Garden, a hidden gem in the eastern Clovis countryside.
The 10-acre plot of land is home to 14 varieties of organic fruit trees, as well as several varieties of organic vegetables and herbs. While not the only organic operation in the Valley, the oasis is the only one of its kind in the United States, tailored after the natural farming teachings of Mokichi Okada who advocated that a healthy civilization lives in harmony with nature.
Although industrial society makes agriculture remote from our daily lives, farming has always been an integral part of human culture and Okada wanted to emphasis this in creating prototypes called Zuisenkyo (oasis gardens). In 1999, the Clovis MOA Oasis Garden was created when retried Clovis farmers Tadashi and Yoko Mori, who practiced Okada’s philosophy, donated five acres of land. That land is where most the fruit trees are established. Another five acres next door was purchased in 2003 to add the garden. These acres are home to the vegetable garden, an herb garden, a peaceful pond and creek, grape vines and some new fruit trees.
Bruno Luconi is one of only three people working full-time at the MOA Oasis Garden. He moved to the United States nearly 30 years ago after establishing a similar garden in Argentina.
Luconi said eating organic is important because any foods that are contaminated, in turn contaminate our bodies.
“The healthier we eat, the better we become and our body becomes strong, whereas when we contaminate our food our immune system is going to become weak; that is a natural consequence,” Luconi said.
Creating a farm full of organic crops isn’t easy, especially with the hardpan soil present on the 10-acre garden. One of the keys is introducing nutrients to the soil and using organic compost as fertilizer. This is often a test of trial and error as some soils bring with them micro-organisms that don’t work the best together—but it’s all about finding balance and it is variety, both in micro-organisms and in the types of fruit trees and vegetables, that is the spice of life.
“When we do a lot of mulching, we just don’t treat them in the sense of feeding the tree, we do it to create an environment where the microorganisms will break down and the organic material will incorporate naturally into the ground to mimic the forest and that is what we have tried to accomplish here,” Luconi said. “That is a very difficult task because that brings good and bad insects and until you reach that balance, it takes time, so that is why we believe in biodiversity as well so we don’t just have one variety, we have many different varieties and types of trees.
“We also have flower gardens that attract beneficial insects so we try to mimic the forest where life produces life and provides all the essential nutrients and the good things that the tree will absorb and eventually will end up in the fruit you’re going to eat. It takes more time and is more expensive but it is completely healthy for your body and that is where people need to understand that organic farming and natural farming and biodynamic farming takes more time and it is a more conscious level of farming and that is why it is a little more expensive. It requires being more careful with the land and being a steward of the land instead of trying to take advantage and soak as much as possible from that ground.”
Not only does the MOA Oasis Garden attempt to mimic the forest in biodiversity—offering too many varieties of fruits and vegetables to list from Asian pears, apples, plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines to kale, Swiss chard, squash and garlic—but it mimics nature’s beauty in style as well. Straight rows of trees just don’t occur in nature, Luconi said, and they don’t occur often at the oasis either.
“In [our main] orchard, we tried to make it more artistic, which is not really the agriculture way. Why? Because we want people to enjoy it,” Luconi said. “We have areas where we have poems and right now we’re preparing for flowerbeds so we just try to let the people enjoy it when they are in this area so that the beauty is part of the landscape naturally. We want to mimic what nature does and nature never makes straight lines, it is all naturally complicated.”
Art is a vital part of Okada’s philosophy as well, as are alternative therapy methods that use components of both nature and art to help people heal.
“We can help to treat through art so for people with anxiety or people with depression, working on a flower arrangement is a great thing because it helps you to recognize who you are. Soil therapy is another way; just being in contact with the soil so helps you to reconnect,” Luconi said.
Of course, eating clean can also help ones health, both physically and mentally.
Luconi said the MOA Oasis Garden is rare land in that it was not by farmed in the past—so they haven’t had to worry about chemicals in the soil. And while it is a challenge to constantly weed by hand, Luconi said it is paying off as the vegetable crops at the oasis are on their third, fourth, fifth and more generations of certain crops, meaning that is how many times the seeds have been recycled and used from the vegetables the season before.
“You can see what these vegetables emit; they are green, have a nice color and the life, you can just feel it,” Luconi said. “We believe everything has energy; everything has an ether. In natural farming, we believe in the power of nature in terms of fire, water and soil, like the Asians understood before. When you respect nature and you don’t contaminate nature, in the ether sense, those elements combine and work together for the benefit of the universe and of course, we’re part of it. That is why it is so important to feed ourselves with that type of food.”
To get fresh organic fruits, vegetables and herbs, you can visit the MOA Oasis Garden at 5790 N. Indianola or visit their booth at the Vineyard Farmer’s Market in Fresno. Volunteers at MOA Oasis Garden can earn fruits and vegetables for free.
Also, visit the MOA Oasis Garden on June 25 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. for the Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee featuring Abundant Harvest, Blossom Bluff Orchards, Cardenas Farms, D.E. Boldt Family Farm, Eldon Thiesen Farm, Fruit Fairy Farms, Juarez Farms, MOA Oasis Garden, Naylor Organics, Olson Family Farms, Peterson Farm, Sweet Home Ranch and Valliwide Organic Farms. Tickets are $5 and kids under 12 are free.