Minnesotans For Sustainability©
Sustainable: A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.
Introduction to Permaculture
The word "permaculture" was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and his student, David Holmgren. It is a contraction of "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture." Permaculture is about designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is an approach to land use which integrates human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water management into stable, productive communities.
A central theme in permaculture is the design of ecological landscapes that produce food. Emphasis is placed on multi-use plants and the integration of animals to recycle nutrients and graze weeds. However, permaculture entails much more than just food production. Permaculture design concepts are being applied in urban as well as rural settings, and are applicable to single households or whole farms and villages. "Integrated farming" and "ecological engineering" are terms sometimes used to describe permaculture. Though helpful, these terms do not capture the holistic nature of permaculture and thus the following definitions are included to provide insight.
3. Characteristics of Permaculture
(Source: Pilarski, Michael (ed.) 1994. Restoration Forestry. Kivaki Press, Durango, CO. p. 450.)
4. The Practical Application of Permaculture
Permaculture is not limited to just plant and animal agriculture, but also includes community planning and development, use of appropriate technologies (coupled with an adjustment of life- style), and adoption of concepts and philosophies that are both earth-based and people-centered, such as bio-regionalism. Many of the appropriate technologies advocated by permaculturists are well-known.
Among these are solar and wind power, composting toilets, solar greenhouses, energy efficient housing, and solar food cooking and drying. Due to the inherent sustainability of perennial cropping systems, permaculture places a heavy emphasis on tree crops. Systems that integrate annual and perennial crops such as alleycropping and agroforestry take advantage of "the edge effect", increase biological diversity, and offer other characteristics missing in monoculture systems.
Thus, multicropping systems that blend woody perennials and annuals hold promise as viable techniques for large-scale farming. Ecological methods of production for any specific crop or farming system are central to permaculture as well as sustainable agriculture in general. Since permaculture is not a production system, per se, but rather a land use planning philosophy, it is not limited to a specific method of production.
Furthermore, as permaculture principles may be adapted to farms or villages
worldwide, it is site specific and therefore amenable to locally adapted
techniques of production.
Yet, the use of the Keyline chisel plow, rotational grazing, the Aerway implement in no-till farming, and a whole number of other techniques are adaptable to farms working within a permacultural framework. The decision as to which "system" is employed is site-specific and management dependent. Farming systems and techniques commonly associated with permaculture include rotational grazing, agroforestry, swales, contour plantings, the Keyline method (soil and water management), hedgerows and windbreaks, and integrated farming systems such as aquaculture, intercropping, and polyculture.
Gardening and recycling methods common to permaculture include edible landscaping, keyhole gardening, companion planting, trellising, sheet mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses, spiral herb gardens, swales, and vermicomposting. Water collection, management, and re-use systems like Keyline, greywater, rain catchment, constructed wetlands, aquaponics (the integration of hydroponics with recirculating aquaculture), and solar aquatic ponds (also known as Living Machines) play an important role in permaculture designs.
The two basic sources of information on permaculture are permaculture design courses and permaculture literature. The Permaculture Design Course is the primary vehicle for transfer of permaculture expertise. The standard course is 72-hours in length and lasts two weeks. Graduates are issued a permaculture design certificate and are entitled to use "Permaculture" in the pursuit of livelihood and for educational purposes. The permaculture literature is a rich source of information on a wide range of topics dealing with land use, plant and animal agriculture, water management, appropriate technology, energy-efficient and toxic-free housing, and community design.
* The Permaculture Activist Box 1209 Black Mountain, NC 28711 (704) 683-4946 Editor: Peter Bane Cost: $16, quarterly THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST is the leading periodical for North American permaculture. It publishes articles on permaculture, edible landscaping, bioregionalism, aquaculture, etc, and provides a current listing of upcoming permaculture design courses. It serves as an important networking tool in the U.S., Canada, and Central America. Back issues are available for sale.
* The International Permaculture Solutions Journal (TIPS) Yankee Permaculture, Elfin Permaculture, and Forest Ecosystem Rescue Network (FERN) P.O. Box 672 Dahlonega, GA 30533-0672 Editor: Dan Hemenway Cost: $27.50 for four issues The International Permaculture Solutions Journal (TIPS) is published on an irregular basis, but is a rich source of information. Prior to TIPS, Yankee Permaculture put out a fantastic yearbook called The International Permaculture Species Yearbook (TIPSY). The TIPSY series is a goldmine of permaculture information; much of the information is still quite useful. FERN publishes a permaculture newsletter called ROBIN that deals with forest issues. Yankee Permaculture also publishes The Resources Of International Permaculture - TRIP. Volume 5 of TRIP, published in 1993, is a 68-page issue that contains 1,540 listings of groups working in permaculture, sustainable food systems, and tree-based agriculture.
* Restoration Forestry Friends of the Trees P. O. Box 4469 Bellingham, WA 98227 (206) 738-4972 Editor: Michael Pilarski.
* Restoration Forestry: An International Guide To Sustainable Forestry Practices (1994) is a 525-page guide to resources in restoration forestry. It contains over 50 review articles, 780 organizations, 230 journals/periodicals, 800 books, 100 restoration forestry projects underway, and 100 directories on topics relating to restoration forestry, forest ecology, tree seedlings, bioregionalism, and permaculture. It is a massive addition to tree-based agricultural literature. Cost is $27, plus $4 handling. Other publications from Friends of the Trees include the International Green Front Report (1988, $7.00); Kiwifruit Enthusiasts Journal (Vol. 6, $17.20); and Third World Resource Guide (1993, $5.00) and the West Coast Permaculture News & Gossip Newsletter.
* Travelers Earth Repair Network (TERN) is a database maintained by Friends of the Trees containing over 2,500 permaculture contacts in 100-plus countries. The aim is to link travelers with individuals and organizations involved in sustainable agriculture, forestry, permaculture, and ecological restoration. There is a $50 fee to access the TERN database. Hosts are listed free of charge.
* Permaculture Drylands Journal Permaculture Drylands Institute P.O. Box 156 Santa Fe, NM 87504-0156 (505) 983-0663 Cost: $25, 3 issues per year Permaculture Drylands Journal (formerly Sustainable Living In Drylands) is published in April, August, and December by the Permaculture Drylands Education and Research Institute. It focuses on permaculture concepts and designs for arid lands, with a heavy focus on New Mexico and Arizona. PDJ has published articles on straw bale buildings, solar box cookers, dryland farming, and much more; back issues are available. PDI offers a regular series of Permaculture Design Courses.
* Earthword Journal Eos Institute 580 Broadway, Suite 200 Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (714) 497-1896 Cost: $20, 4 issues Earthword Journal is a glossy permaculture magazine published collaboratively by Eos Institute and the Permaculture Institute of Southern California. It explores the ecological interface between urban and rural communities and is geared to the professional designer, architect, and land-use planner. Issue No. 6 was published in January 1996.
* Temperate Bamboo Quarterly Earth Advocates Research Facility 30 Myers Road Summertown, TN 38483 (615) 964-4151 Cost: $24, quarterly Temperate Bamboo Quarterly is a quarterly publication from Earth Advocates, a permaculture team run by Sue and Adam Turtle. It focuses on the bamboo plant which has unique, multi-purpose uses. They also operate a nursery with dozens of bamboo species.
* Permaculture Resources P.O. Box 65 56 Farmersville Rd Califon, N.J. 07830 (800) 832-6285 Educational publisher and distributor of permaculture resources and publications. agAccess P.O. Box 2008 Davis, CA 95616 (916) 756-7177 agAccess, primarily a mailorder bookstore but also a publishing company and for-profit information service, carries one of the largest selections of agricultural literature in North America. They specialize in sustainable agriculture and related resources.
* Permaculture International Journal Permaculture International Ltd. P.O. Box PG6039 South Lismore, NSW 2480 Australia Phone: (066) 220 020 International: (066) 220 579 Cost: U.S. $24, quarterly. Available in the U.S. through The Permaculture Activist. PIJ serves as the leading periodical for permaculture worldwide. It contains articles, book reviews, and news of permacultural events around the world. It serves as an important networking tool. Back issues to the early 1980s are available for sale.
* The Permaculture Edge Permaculture Nambour, Inc. P.O. Box 148 Inglewood
6050 Western Australia Cost: U.S. $20, quarterly. Available in the U.S. through
The Permaculture Activist. The Permaculture Edge aims to report activities that
are seen to be at the cutting edge of permaculture developments around the
world. The "permaculture edge" refers to the "edge effect"
found at the boundaries of two ecological systems where there is more synergism,
biological activity, and variations in the microenvironment and which can be
used to increase yields in designed systems. It also points to permaculture
ideas as being "at the edge" of a change in the push towards a
* Permaculture Magazine Uk: Ecological Solutions For Everyday Life Permanent Publications Hyden House Limited Little Hyden Lane Clandfield, Hampshire PO8 ORU England Cost: U.S. $24, quarterly. Available in the U.S. through The Permaculture Activist, A quarterly journal published in cooperation with the Permaculture Association of Great Britain. It contains articles, book reviews, and solutions from Britain and Europe. A good source for temperate agroforestry species and permaculture design projects.
* Ground Cover Permaculture Association of Zimbabwe Box CY 301 Causeway, Harare Zimbabwe Telephone/Fax: (+4) 726911 Cost: U.S. $30, per year.
* Permaculture India Newsletter and Ecological Visions Earthcare Books c/o Classic Books 10 Middleton St. Calcutta 700 071 India.
* Introduction To Permaculture by Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay. 1991.
Tagari Publishers, Tyalgum, Australia. 198 P.
A Few Good Books for the Permaculturist's Bookshelf
* Cornucopia: A Source Book Of Edible Plants by Stephen
Facciola. 1990. Kampong Publications, Vista, CA. 678 p.
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