Permaculture for a Full Circle
Permaculture is a system, and philosophy, of producing food in a sustainable manner by mimicking the natural evolution of ecosystems. Through observing the interrelation of plants, animals, soil, weather, micro-climates, the water cycle, etc. we can create Permanent Culture, or Permanent systems of Agriculture.
In nature, a prairie would have a diverse array of plant life. This plant life would provide for insects and grazing herbivores with it's continuous season of flowers and grasses following a natural succession. These animals would attract predators which would move the herds about fertilizing the soil and keeping the herd from over grazing or compacting the area. The dense matting of continuous ground cover feeds and protects the soil with tons of biological activity, collecting, storing and releasing nutrients from deep in the soil, feeding microbial life with exudates, holding moisture and protecting the soil structure from the elements.
The forest is similar, you see a layering of plant life filling every niche. A tall canopy sheltering young and smaller trees, vines climbing, brambles sprawling, shade loving ground cover all protecting and building the soil, while providing resources, food, and shelter. The forest doesn't need fertilizers or synthetic chemicals or any maintenance, it feeds itself with it's annual layer of mulch.
Permaculture philosophy follows Principles and Ethics to guide our decisions on the farm and in the community.
- Work with nature.
- The problem is the solution
- Make the least change, with the most effect.
- Elements in any system do, and should, preform many functions.
- Everything Gardens (everything creates change)
- Efficient use of Energy through zones, sectors, slope, and good design.
- Use biological resources
- Cycle energy, nutrients, and resources.
- Small Scale Intensive systems
- Accelerate succession and evolution (into diverse productive systems)
- Increase Diversity.
- Utilize the Edge.
- Earth Care
- People Care
- Fair Share
- Return the Surplus
The problem with modern agriculture is the mechanization which causes up-scaling of systems, compaction and degradation of soil. Poor soil, and the attitude that time is money lead large scale conventional agriculture to depend on synthetic chemicals for fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. These chemicals are derived from fossil fuels, while large quantities of fossil fuels are also consumed running machinery and transporting products. If spraying food with synthetic chemicals isn't alarming enough, the impact on the environment certainly must be.
We believe this sole problem is a perfect example of why Permaculture principles play an integral role in a sustainable future. The answer to the problem of conventional agriculture is Permaculture! By observing these issues with modern farming, we see that working with nature by building soils, like leaves in the forest and grass and manure in the prairie, is a big step in the right direction. This is why we use minimum tillage practices, compost, cover crops, and mulch, to protect and build the health of the soil for the future. These techniques utilize biological resources to make the least change with the most effect, protecting and building soil while suppressing weeds saving us work! This is efficient use of cycling energy.
Utilizing small scale intensive systems allows us to use hand tools, plant a diversity of crops close together, and plan our farm around the size of people rather than tractors. Spacing crops closely helps to confuse pests, save space, shade out weeds, protect soil, and mimic the way nature fills every niche. Producing more food in less space is efficient for our time and allows us to be free of excessive fossil fuel consumption. Having less space to take care of makes it easier to take care of! When you know where you're growing, you can focus on building good soil which grows strong healthy plants that don't need extra chemicals for food or to control pests.
Earth care comes first, because the Earth cares for People. By utilizing sustainable methods and philosophies we are building healthy soil and healthy habits (in us and communities) for the future. By taking care of the Earth, we are taking care of our People. Growing healthy food free of chemicals, building soil, and educating the community about sustainability, growing food, and being healthy is our way of taking care of the People. Fair share is our goal in all we do. We don't want to take too much from the environment without giving back. Our CSA program allows members to get an equal share of our crops. We keep our CSA garden separate from our market gardens so we know everyone is getting what we grew just for them. Any of our surplus produce that isn't sold at market will be available for gleaning and to the Chester County Food Bank. We hope to make good food more accessible to everyone. Of course, the best way everyone can return the excess is composting! We can greatly reduce our waste and create good compost for growing food by composting kitchen and yard scraps.
You can see, Permaculture is useful outside of the perennial food forest. We can use Permaculture in our annual gardens and to help us make good decisions about our diets and our relationship with the community and environment. Permaculture can help us to organize our thoughts and lead us to designing a future that is bright for everyone. We all have the tools to create a beautiful world, for we are infinitely creative. Allowing these Principles and Ethics to guide us we can work together for a truly sustainable future. Let's starting planning to actively create a better world, a Permanent Culture.