The study of permaculture is relatively new, yet, it is incredibly vast and growing each year. It would be unrealistic to explain all the specificities of permaculture, so, in this blog, I will only attempt to provide a basic understanding.
What Is Permaculture
Although there is no definite definition of permaculture, David Holmren first conceived permaculture as the intersection of agriculture, landscape design, and ecology. The term was coined in the 1970s by David Holmren and Bill Mollison, who were searching for an alternative to our destructive agriculture practices.
Introduction of Monoculture
Modern agriculture is efficient, but it is also destructive in many ways. Monoculture is the cultivation of a single crop on a piece of land year after year. It is known to lead to rapid soil deterioration and increase the severity of pests and infections.
To counter the adverse effects of monoculture, modern agriculture utilizes synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, contaminating the air and local water sources. What is particularly worrying is that the typical North American eats these harmful substances daily. These chemicals are often expensive, favoring industrial-scale farms over small or personal farms.
Why is Permaculture Better?
Every year, we hear of droughts, early frosts, pests, or heat waves devastating crops somewhere in the world. Yet, natural ecosystems remain relatively unaffected.
Permaculture looks to natural ecosystems for solutions. We can find greater resilience, productivity, and sustainability by mimicking nature.
One of the critical principles of permaculture is diversity; planting multiple species within proximity of each other, when done correctly, can increase the well-being of all the participating plants. Some plants possess traits that work perfectly together. Using complementary characteristics of different plants to create a mutually beneficial environment is known as companion planting. Companion planting can create a nearly endless web of plants that all benefit each other and create a more resilient system as a whole, much like a natural ecosystem.
Once you have established diversity in your garden, there is the possibility of reusing and repurposing. Use the trimmings from your fruit trees as mulch for your vegetables, save your food scraps, start composting to make fertilizer for your garden, save your grey water to water your garden during dry spells, and use solar energy to pump the water. An ideal permaculture farm is entirely self-sufficient.
Another essential principle of permaculture is to observe and to design to the specifics of your land. For example, consider the local climate, the direction of the wind, and the history of the land, to name a few. You can use all these variables as strengths.
One of the incredible things about permaculture is its ability to transform barren and abused land into a productive and lively place. Given the patience it needs, nature will reclaim almost any piece of land. Permaculture practices require more time than typical modern agriculture, but you can expect to see larger yields and less maintenance once you have established your agricultural ecosystem.
Modern farmers spend large amounts of money on maintenance equipment, seeds, and chemicals, so they cannot afford to skip a cycle or five to establish a permaculture system. Although farmers can take inspiration and apply specific techniques, permaculture does not typically work on a commercial scale. However, if you are looking to produce food for yourself or your local community on a small scale, there are very few reasons not to utilize permaculture.
Permaculture now encompasses much more than just agriculture. It represents a cultural movement. The principles of permaculture have evolved into biomimicry, the idea that evolution is the world’s greatest engineer. Biomimicry has given us many great inventions such as more efficient wind-turbines inspired by humpback whales and quieter trains inspired by kingfishers. For many young people, permaculture promises to reestablish our lost connection with the land and create a healthier relationship with our planet.