Permaculture – Can One Thing Really Lead To Another?


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Permaculture is a system of design, to enable us to grow the maximum amount of food in a given area. Permaculture employs techniques which maximize efficiency and promote interconnectedness between human needs and nature – Olds College, April 2009 2nd Edition ENVI715

The word permacultureis derived from permanent agriculture and permanent culture. Bill Mollison and David Holmgren are credited with formalizing the methods and structures involved with this amazing theory. It has evolved into a course of design that will enable people to create increasingly self-sufficient settlements. This in turn will reduce our reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution.

I personally am new to the whole affair. I was working in a health food store in a small Western Canadian town when a customer I knew well asked if she could put up a poster promoting the Introduction to Permaculture course being presented at the local agricultural college. It caught my attention, was reasonably priced, and seemed like a really good idea. So, I signed up. A good way to get out and meet like minded people, talk tomatoes and beans, and generally enjoy a weekend away from the usual. Or so I thought.

Have you ever stood somewhere and had the unshakable feeling that all the planets, forces of nature, and karma have conspired to make sure you are precisely where you are supposed to be? This was the second time this had happened. The first was when I bought my 40-acre parcel in rural Saskatchewan (Canada) and decided that I’d like to go farming. But I digress.

This small, introductory, course has brought me more inspiration and excitement than I could ever achieve with a $50 bill and a corner Starbucks. It opened my eyes and my mind to an achievable world.

Permaculture can be customized to fit the smallest or largest spaces. Urban dwellers can learn to make the best use of any available space to grow vegetables and fruit. Inner city groups can use their community gardens ideas and design them for maximum production of food. It’s all a matter of studying your immediate surroundings and learning the ebb and flow of nature.

The permaculture methods are organic by default. Every bit of it designed to take full advantage of the way nature intended. There are sections on zone design (Zone 1 being immediate needs, closest to the dwelling), soil amendment methods, weed control without the use of noxious products, water collection and direction. The list goes on.

It is a perfect blend of sense and science.

To minds like mine, that view common sense as a necessary thing, it’s perfect. It’s a way to design my rose colored world that I like to live in to my exact specifications. To the scientific mind (which I am not) it is an opportunity to study the balance of this planet in action. The science-minded can enjoy analyzing the benefits of composting in their personal laboratories. They can study the effects of pollination patterns from their own backyard while enjoying a handful of cherries produced on their own tree. You can complicate it, or un-complicate it as you see fit.

There is a great deal of discussion in the media surrounding food security, food safety, local production, and the plight of farmers. What’s more secure, safe and local than produce from your own backyard? There is no disputing that organic produce is healthier for everyone including our planet. Go ahead and prove me wrong on that one!

Now imagine how much happier the farmers would be if we took away the little things (like tomatoes, beans, apples, etc) from the list of MASS PRODUCTION items needed. They could go back to doing what they do best. They can produce the crops that we CAN’T grow in our own backyards. There will always be a need for orchards and vineyards, but MOST of our daily snacking and feeding requirements can be grown within arm’s reach.

It may seem like a bit of a Utopian theory, but it’s a good one. It’s an idea and a course of study that, with the right direction, will teach our children to nurture this rock we call home. It will teach humans that we can survive without Snackables or Ritz. Meats don’t come in boxes like Cargill and Tyson, and of course everyone’s flavor favorite Monsanto would have you believe otherwise.

Take a few minutes, hit YouTube and search things like Permaculture in (whatever part of the world you dwell in). You will be astounded at the volumes of region specific information that is out there. Go one step further and search Polyface Farms – Joel Salatin is a farmer (mostly meats) who is turning upside down the notions of food safety and security in the US. Mr. Salatin is a successful farmer, published author, speaker and an all around Good Human.

Watch Food Inc. (a documentary) and then decide if your daily bread is REALLY the best thing for you. Take your next meal seriously.

If a little theory like Permaculture can take hold and grow into a daily reality, imagine the possibilities. And they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on.

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  1. I remember someone recently telling me that permaculture is not just about farming, but it is a lifestyle. Once you have it in your head to observe your environment, you begin to make improvements all around. I think that is our biggest failing: a lack of focus on what is happening around us. We come home tired from work, so we pull out the book or turn on the tv, where a daily walk around our garden and home can be relaxing, but tell us so much.

  2. Frank – many thanks for the comment. I agree with you 100%. I have found that regardless of where one dwells (high rise or hovel) that a few plants (especially ones you can eat) provide untold amounts of therapy. Even a few tomatoes in a pot on patio can remove the stresses of day.

  3. Thanks for this thoughtful and informative article. When we first moved to this new place, the dirt was really lifeless dirt from the construction. Soon things changed after I composted everything compostable (I have a blind negative at the spot in front of the neighbor’s half of our duplex building). Sooner than I thought, the soil was filled with earthworms and mycelia and numerous insects I forgot the names of or never remembered. The palms (good bee feeders when n plenty of bloom) are about 2x as strong as those on the ‘control landscaping patch.’ A tomato plant decided to grow from the seeds of a fruit I composted, showing me the best place for tomatoes. The surprise plant grew and fruited for 2 years. When people ask why organic food is more expensive, I wonder if they ever tried to grow their own food in a sensible way. Growing good food organically needs nurture and as far as I can tell, often a daily inspection to assure everything is OK. chemicals are a toxic shortcut that may make life easier but in addition to destroying our resources more, they result in short term growing ‘success’ which often is tasteless (is toxic and less nutritious) than food that’s grown with attention.

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