What Is Permaculture?


Elizabeth StoneI first heard about permaculture a few years ago.  The little bit I read was confusing and implied that you would need a large piece of property.  As a single mom working full time who only had a small piece of property in the city, permaculture did not seem to fit my needs.  I filed Permaculture in my head under “someday” and my son and I started our first small vegetable garden out back.

A few years later, I met my amazing husband and I found myself with an additional 5 mouths to feed.  Shortly after, my husband was offered a job in Texas and we decided to go for it.  As I did not have a job in Texas yet, it seemed like the perfect time to improve my gardening skills.  As I was looking into local Master Gardener classes, I came across the free "Introduction to Permaculture" course through Oregon State University.  I figured it would be a great time to tackle this “complicated” subject.  It turned out to be the complete opposite of what I expected.  Not only can permaculture be applied to any size property, but it is easy!  I thoroughly enjoyed the course and now am enrolled in the full "Permaculture Design" course with plans to take the "Advanced Permaculture Design" course.

“Yeah, that’s swell.  But what IS permaculture?!” I hear you saying.  According to Wikipedia, “Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems….The word permaculture originally referred to permanent agriculture, but was expanded to stand also for permanent culture.” 

What a mouthful.  Even knowing what permaculture is, I had to read that more than once to make sure I understood it.  After trying to explain it to others a few times and watching eyes glaze over, I eventually started saying that permaculture works with nature and the resources you have on hand already to help find the easiest route to becoming entirely self-sufficient.  They key phrase here is “works with nature.”  Working against nature is time consuming and exhausting; no one has time for that.

The term permaculture was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, whom are generally referred to as the fathers of permaculture. They each have created their own “Principles of Permaculture,” which they believe are the foundation of permaculture.  Masanobu Fukuoka, another early permaculture teacher, is also highly regarded in the permaculture field if for a slightly different approach.  Fukuoka took the easy route, stating "I just emptied my mind and tried to absorb what I could from nature."  There are also numerous other individuals and groups around the world who are using permaculture to re-establish depleted areas or to increase their food production. 

The information on permaculture is exhausting.   Fortunately for you, I was able to simplify these down to just 4 steps to get you started: 

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