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Industrial scale permaculture?  RSS feed

 
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I have gone far too long of not looking into this thread.

I wish to emphasize a few things:

- I prefer to not use these forums for discussion of ethics.  It gets into a holy war.  Let's all agree that ethics are good and move on.  Discussion of the details of ethics, specifically, the ethics of permaculture, need to be taken up on other places on the internet.

- nobody is to suggest that anybody on these forums is anything less than perfect. 

- everybody needs to express themselves in a way that allows others to have an alternate opinion.

I have already read some things that I was very tempted to delete - but I'm letting it stand.  I hope to have caught up on this thread in the next few hours.

If you want to talk about my policies, this thread is not the place to do it.  Please bring it up in the tinkering forum.
 
paul wheaton
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Now I'm deleting a lot. 

Wow.  I wish you guys would alert me when things get like this.

I'm gonna stop after page 1 and give you all a chance to clean things up on your own.  This will (hopefully) make less work for me and help you all to make sure that what you took the time to write will stick around.  If you all want your posts to survive, I suggest that you go through the stuff on page 2 and later and make sure that they fit within my comfort zone.

Quick reminder:

offering guidance is good.

expressing your position is good.

persuasion is good.

telling somebody they are wrong is outside of my comfort zone.

suggesting that somebody on permies.com is anything less than perfect
is outside of my comfort zone.

Thanks everybody for your help in keeping things on permies.com smooth.
 
paul wheaton
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FWIW:  I'll say more when I have finished reading everything.  For now, I think massive scale permacuture is very possible. 

Further, I rather like the idea that a current farm with 100,000 acres wakes up and smells the permaculture and moves from spending millions on toxic gick to being toxic gick free and earning more money per acre because of it. 

And, my obnoxious opinions are abundant this morning, once a person has passed an official PDC, they get to use the word "permaculture" on their stuff.  I know I have visited gobs of farms where they have the word "permaculture" plastered all over everything, but I'm not really seeing much of what I would call permaculture.  But, hey, they took the PDC so they get to do that.  I'm kinda bummed because it makes my use of the word seem a little watered down.  Oh well.

 
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paul wheaton wrote:my obnoxious opinions are abundant this morning, once a person has passed an official PDC, they get to use the word "permaculture" on their stuff...I'm kinda bummed because it makes my use of the word seem a little watered down.  Oh well.



This is important and difficult, and I think I agree with you.

Control structures that might keep a word potent by overruling popular inclinations of how to use that term, would fall outside my comfort zone.

I think the choice you're making here allows more space for criticism to be specific and constructive. It also might help people to avoid the trap of pushing each other around by threatening exclusion from the group.

As to industrial scale:

I think one of the more exciting developments in recent history, has been the development of systems (including permaculture) that are mindful of issues of scale, and are able to take on a structure that is large-scale in some ways, and small-scale in others. It is very exciting to read about cases where most of the benefits of small and large have been claimed, while still avoiding most of the drawbacks of small and of large.

I'm still reading up on the principle of subsidiarity, but so far, it makes all sorts of sense.
 
paul wheaton
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Ludi wrote:
I agree, the ethics and principles of permaculture can not be discarded and the process still called "permaculture."  To do so is a perversion of the concept of permaculture.



This approach is what I have always called "the holmgren approach".  And, as I have pointed out in the past, there are many people that take the holmgren approach to permaculture that will not permit any other approach.  I need to state that there is at least one other approach.  And people on this site need to make room for the other approaches.

What I call the Holmgren Approach to Permaculture is to say that the world has problems, and as we attempt to figure out how to solve these problems, we change the landscape.  In the end, we end up with more money.

The Holzer approach is to say that he wants to make more money via farming.  And the best approach he has found is to change the landscape.  And, along the way, the worlds problems are solved. 

Holmgren was involved in creating the word "permaculture".  Holmgren said that was Holzer is doing is permaculture. 

This site is more aligned with the holzer approach to permaculture. 



 
paul wheaton
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mos6507 wrote:
Permaculture makes money already--by offering Permaculture courses.



I would say that very few, if any, make more than minimum wage getting involved in teaching permaculture courses.

So when it comes to making crappy money - okay. But I think when the focus is about earning a professional wage, the classes don't cut it.


 
paul wheaton
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I made it through!

I deleted only one or two more posts.  Other than that - thanks everybody for keeping things smooth and making my job easier!

 
                                              
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Once again, thank you all for your contributions. Based on what Paul said, ie.:

"The Holzer approach is to say that he wants to make more money via farming."

I would fall into this category myself, and Sepp is definitely my favourite, if solely for his gregarious personality.

This is an idea to which I will turn my mind again, but it will be/has been on hold for the next few months until I have time to thresh out more ideas. I'll certainly be coming back here to review the thread and pluck some of the great ideas. Thanks again.
 
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Looking forward to seeing the progress of your project, especially once you begin to formulate specific plans

 
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One thing I wonder about large scale permaculture is the 'split pea soup' versus a more mixed pattern of planting. By 'split pea soup' I mean a planting pattern like; pear tree next to currant bush, next to plum tree, next to gooseberry, and then repeat... A mixed pattern would be more random, if I understand correctly.

This topic is covered briefly in the Edible Forest Garden books by Davide Jacke, and I recall he's of the opinion that mixed is better than pea soup. Then I look at mollisons polyculture examples and many of them look to me like the pea soup. I get the impression that this is because Jacke is focusing on homescale, and Mollison on large scale.

So...Do you think its feasible to have a medium- large scale (eg. more than 10 acres) mixed forest garden type planting, with efficient harvesting time and uniform crop-readiness? I am leaning towards no myself but am not so certain.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm wondering if you could have narrow strips of each crop, perhaps very long strips (many meters) with some space between them of mulch or groundcover, and then the next crop.  This would seem to emulate mixed plantings to some degree, but allow easier harvesting and care of each type of crop.

 
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Scale is big in determining planting structure.Straight lines are not necessary but 5 to 10 crops in a given space is max for efficiency of scale but not a mono culture.Complexity in the system eventually limits net production even if gross goes up.On a home scale,a greater diversity is possible because you are so near the point of consumtion.My knowledge is based on observing /collecting native fruits in different settings and calculating yield per hr.Old growth is the least productive because you cant carry enough buckets(for all that diversity) and its easier to trip.
 
Matt Ferrall
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If the project is to provide similar ecological benefits to the forest it replaces it will be tree crops.Here is a quote from the agroforestry news I got today"olive tree of your forefather,chestnut tree of your father,only the mulberry tree is yours".How do modern economics interact with the multigenerational model we need.Would desire for profit be enough to propel such a long term project?
 
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Check out:

Gordon, A.M. and S.M. Newman Eds.  1997.  Temperate Agroforestry Systems.  CAB International.

It looks at a range of mixed production systems from the perspective of different cultures and economies, down to economic analysis of different production systems.  There are certainly people out there designing and evaluating polycultures and silvopastoral systems that satisfy industrial economics.  (Right down the the Chinese 'Great Green Wall' project).  There are many examples therein of fruit tree or saw log production systems that include row crops or pasture during establishment.  Mollison talks about transitional systems right on page 5-6 of the big book.

If you have a large centrally owned production system, don't you need a hierarchical structure for managing it in the interests of the owner?  I'd propose that in this topic social dynamics and resulting challenges may be more important than the ecological dynamics, and that as an unintended consequence, the social issues create ecological ramifications.  What are the system dynamics when you separate ownership, people, and production?  Primary production in the modern era has ever been designed to make as little money for the people who are doing the work of primary production as possible.

 
                                              
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Paul Cereghino wrote:
Check out:

Gordon, A.M. and S.M. Newman Eds.  1997.  Temperate Agroforestry Systems.  CAB International.

It looks at a range of mixed production systems from the perspective of different cultures and economies, down to economic analysis of different production systems.  There are certainly people out there designing and evaluating polycultures and silvopastoral systems that satisfy industrial economics.  (Right down the the Chinese 'Great Green Wall' project).  There are many examples therein of fruit tree or saw log production systems that include row crops or pasture during establishment.  Mollison talks about transitional systems right on page 5-6 of the big book.




Thanks, I'll check it out.

All this discussion of how much to plant, how much diversity, etc., that is the nitty gritty details that would need to be worked out. What is the best combination for forage/food production and saw log production? What ratio should we have of each? Waht is the highest value tree to grow, when time to harvest is considered?

And, further to the ethics issues discussed prior, I love Paul Wheaton's quote about Holzer, adn this is what makes me love him and gives me such hope that this idea can work: he wanted to find the most productive farming strategy (and by productive, I mean profitable), and it just turned out that the best way to do it is also fantastic for nature. It's also why I'm not going to get too caught up in worrying about this project losing its permaculture purity, primarily because I consider the underpinning of the entire profitability of the operation to be premissed upon the foundational belief that "the better job we do for nature the better job she'll do for us. ". The outcome of this is obviously that a failure to sufficiently adopt the ideas of Holzer et al. will not only result in a worse result for mother nature, but more importantly in a worse result for the company. I know that last sentence is going to raise the ire of other member here, and in many ways I agree and wish we lived in a different system. But we don't, and we as humans have, for the time being at least, chosen a modified market economy, so thems the rules we play by.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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permieobserver wrote:...a failure to sufficiently adopt the ideas of Holzer et al. will not only result in a worse result for mother nature, but more importantly in a worse result for the company. I know that last sentence is going to raise the ire of other member here



It doesn't raise my ire, but I'd like to point out a subtle disagreement:

Your idea of sepp holzer's ideas won't, in my opinion, be as productive as your interaction with nature.

That is to say, I think someone could (and frequently, people have) form their own ideas, from similar or dissimilar premises, and interacting with nature will teach them to do right even if their words are at odds.

I really value the leadership and creativity that we can take from successful permaculturists, but (and I hope people aren't tired of me saying this) I feel it's much more important to continue the methods of inquiry that led them to such success, than to preserve the ideas that they discovered.
 
                              
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Emile Spore wrote:
Sorry, I'm slightly ticked off, so I am going to go ahead and break the rules of this website and say that a massive pulp farm isn't and never can be permaculture.

A better technique I believe would be to make pulp production illegal.

To me this is a gigantic joke, probably the biggest problem in the world is desire. Humans have a huge desire to get pulp. Do you really need pulp? No, of course not.



Hun I think you missed the whole point of turning an old pulp forest INTO a proper permiculture "farm"/community.

I haven't been here long but I've found that if I think someone's saying something monumentally stupid, I re-read slower or in a few moments time and find that's not what they meant at all.
 
                                              
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So, my thoughts have now turned to what, in general to grow. I came across this handy "when things are in season and where" interactive map, which you can find here: (sorry, don't know how to hyperlink - any helpers?)

http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap


So for the sake of argument, let's say this is going to be in Maine. From that chart, I gather that the following crops/foods are grown there: apples, carrots, cabbage, parsnips, brussel sprouts, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, blueberries, corn, peppers, tomatoes, etc. etc. etc.

My question is what do people think about massive Emilia Haslip style gardens being located at strategic (i.e. the most suitable) locations on the property? What could you, should you, plant? My first thought is to try to have as much crowded diversity as possible, for both the soil-health effects the pest-resistance benefits. Of course, things would be in bloom at different times of the season and as some early crops are harvested there may need to be something replanted, be it another food plant or simply a fast-growing, biodiversity enhancing plant. Or perhaps it could be one planting/harvesting cycle - although I presume not.

Thoughts?
 
Tyler Ludens
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It being a permaculture operation, you'd probably want the framework planting to be permanent - trees, shrubs, and other perennials.  The first few years while these permanent plants are getting old enough to produce, you could grow a wide selection of annuals.  You'd keep growing annuals later, of course, but they might not form the core of the business anymore after a few years. 
 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:
It being a permaculture operation, you'd probably want the framework planting to be permanent - trees, shrubs, and other perennials.  The first few years while these permanent plants are getting old enough to produce, you could grow a wide selection of annuals.  You'd keep growing annuals later, of course, but they might not form the core of the business anymore after a few years. 



Thanks for this. Should I interpret it to mean that the perennials are going to be more valuable than the annuals? I thought about perhaps interspersing some trees in and around the raised beds, but no idea at what density/type/etc. From what I've seen of Holzer's raised beds, they appear to be fairly open to the sun with not a whole lot of shading (but I could be totally wrong about this).
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think the general idea is the open spaces between trees when they are young might be used to grow annuals, but as the trees grow larger, they eventually shade out the annual beds. There are some diagrams in "Permaculture: a designers manual" of various multistory plantings.

If you want to keep growing annuals in some areas, those would not have as many, or perhaps no, trees planted.

For your Maine permaculture you'd want to include sugar maples. 

 
                                              
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Oh, no question sugar maples are going to be a key component. In my mind, that is exactly the type of operation that could benefit from a well-thought-out design layout, perhaps using gravity to make sap collection easier (i.e. you plant them on the top of a hill and then lower and lower and lower, allowing the sap to collect at on centralized point, limiting labor involvement).

I went to the Edible Forest Gardens website I found over in the Edible Food Forests thread, and it really seems like it would be an amazing resource (hopefully Santa Claus will bring it this year!).
 
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A big problem with maple sugar is the expense reducing it entails. As it starts off with only two percent or a little over sugar in the sap. The expense is in boiling it down to get a concentrated syrup. Maybe you could have solar oven boilers down. It has to be boiled down quickly it goes off easily unless you have a big fridge, i suppose.
    As it is made in areas with a lot of snow they could build ice houses something described in the book about Laura Ingalls Wilder's  husband almanso WIlders childhood "Farmers Boy". They went out and sawed up the ice in the pond into blocks which they stored laying a layer of hay and they placing the ice on it and then filling the cracks between blocks, they used child labour for that, their own children, with more hay or straw and laying another layer of hay on top of the first layer of blocks and then another layer of ice till they filled up the ice house, a sort of barn, This gave them ice to make ice cream in summer. With ice adquired like this you are not using electricity for a freezer.

One advantage of tree crops is that you can grow them on slopes. With trees you don't have to plough to plant them each year as you would producing grain fodder. Ploughing on a slope means a great risk of rain water carrying your exposed soil down hill, that is a reason for the production of acorns as a fodder crop.
      Acorns are not as easy to store as as grains. Maybe with a bit of perfecting the technique that would not be true.
      If the live stock eat the acorns as they fall, through the winter mounths  it means they can eat grass too and this gives them a balanced diet and reduces the need to provide water for the live stock  and it means that you dont have the labour costs involved in picking the acorns and storing them. In medieval times there were laws obliging all members of the village including vicars, preists and widows, to plant and look after a certain number of oaks a year because they were so valuable for fodder. Juan Oria del la Rueda y Salguero. "Guia de arboles y arbustos en Castilla y Leon. agri rose macaskie.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think a better way of using acorns rather than as grain for humans would be to have pigs or maybe turkeys eat the acorns from the forest floor.

I made some acorn muffins the other day and they were kind of yucky. 
 
                                              
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rose macaskie wrote:
A big problem with maple sugar is the expense reducing it entails. As it starts off with only two percent or a little over sugar in the sap. The expense is in boiling it down to get a concentrated syrup. Maybe you could have solar oven boilers down. It has to be boiled down quickly it goes off easily unless you have a big fridge, i suppose.
   
      If the live stock eat the acorns as they fall, through the winter mounths  it means they can eat grass too and this gives them a balanced diet and reduces the need to provide water for the live stock  and it means that you dont have the labour costs involved in picking the acorns and storing them.



To the heating down of Maple Sugar, I assume there has got to be some technological advances that can come to bear upon a simple process such as water removal. The company has extensive experience with far more advanced chemical and industrial processes, so I would hope that some type of cross-company synergies could be had. Off the top of my own head, what about something simple like using a Rocket Stove? It's simple tech, it gets huge heat out of a resource that would probably far surpass the requirements for the evaporation process, i.e. we're in a massive, massive, massive forest - there will be no shortage of wood fuel to burn.  Moreover, that's how it has always been traditionally done I would assume - producers would burn wood you've collected from the same forest where you got the maple sap to fuel the reduction process. In a semi-large-scale, their should be economies of scale that would reduce these requirements even further, as well as the increased efficiency from using the rocket stoves alone.

As to the idea of either collecting the acorns or using them as pig-fodder, I'm leaning towards the latter. It would seem to the me that the labour-intensivity of collecting them off the sides of hills would make it economically unfeasible pretty quickly. Basically, why pay people to collect them when you can get the pigs to do it for free while up-processing it to a more value-added product, i.e. delicious delicious bacon! As Holzer has said, if you don't have the pigs to do the pig jobs then you have to do it yourself, simple as that.

On another note, I was reading a bit about Edible Forest Garden's book, and it seems like it's absolutely spot on. From their intro on the website, there was a discussion about which part of succession is most productive, and apparently it's that middle stage between new growth and a fully mature forest environment with a full canopy, if I understand it correctly. So, perhaps the goal should be to try to maintain the system in that "sweet-spot" for as long as possible.
 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:
I'm wondering if you could have narrow strips of each crop, perhaps very long strips (many meters) with some space between them of mulch or groundcover, and then the next crop.  This would seem to emulate mixed plantings to some degree, but allow easier harvesting and care of each type of crop.




I like this idea, and it is kind of what first pops into my head. There are some good videos from the Missouri university about alleycropping that would seem to have integrated what you're suggesting.
 
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ludi it makes me laugh you eating them. You have to  have the right sort of acon for human consumption i have never tried acorn flour, i have eaten them raw and some a re  very good here, not even all evergreen oaks produce sweet acorns. They used to make acorn bread not long ago in spain and i have never tried that. it was widely used so i suppose it must have been good.
  even the expensive bread shops in madrid mix soya flour in their wheat flour, it makes it worth making your own bread. Wheat flour bread is so good, my trick with bread dough is to make it as wet as possible and it is never heavy, people say it is kneading it that is important, i find as long as it is wet enough it is eatable even when it comes out heavy as the last soda bread i made did. agri rose macaskie.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'll try to eat just about anything!  I processed the acorns according to directions on a website, to leach out the tannins, but I think I needed to leach one more time. These were white oak acorns and did not taste bitter before processing (not to me anyway, but I have a high bitterness tolerance). 
 
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    If they did not taste bitter before leaching them maybe you did not need to leach them, they dont leach them in Spain and they used to eat lots of acorns but they do know which trees have sweet acorns those  they keep for themselves instead of the pigs.
  They dont just feed pigs and turkeys on them all the live stock eat them if they are not kept for pigs, that is sheep, goats, cattle and horses, and the meat of all animals is meant to be good when they are acorn fed. At the very least it is a change and at the most it is meant to make pig fat that is healthy an ddoes not give colesterol, Ht erecipe is acorns and grass as garss has more protiens they say than acorns with more carbo hydrates. If the place is at any great altitude the trees maybe beaten to get down th eacorns before the frosts get them. If not the pigs eat them as they fall.  rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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LUdi rereading a few bits again i have seen that you mention the trees shading out the plants.
In the spainish pasture and oaks trees and sometimes arable land and oak trees which means oaks for fuel instead of iraq for fuel, acorns for fattening and leaf  prunned off trees for browse and pastures, the trees are prunned and this reduces the shade they caste on the plants at their feet. A parcial shade is eaven helpfull for pastuers in a hot climate as is the leaf mold and the fact that trees practice hydraulic distribution their tap roots supply thei rsuperficial roots with water when the earth gets too hot and the superficial roroots start to lose water.
  they are prunned as fruit trees are, to increase the yeild of acorns to make sure the branches they corp off the main arms every  few years grow back in an orderly fashion. They are pollarded back not to a head but to four or six main branches. the main branches are that are prunned as they grow to get them to grow horizontally and so provide a place for the beater and pruner to walk when they are pruning or beating the treefor acorns. .
  One reason for prunning the trees is to stop them casting too big a shade on the pastures under them. This is the predominante reason in the Pedroches in the province of Cordova  famouse for its hams.

  I believe that the reason for having open woods combined with pastures is to reduce the fire risk. The mediteranean climate is said to be the same as the Californian one and any one who whatches the news knows how often Callifornia burns. The live stock also keep the undergrowth less dangerously long. i posted fotos of all this in the woodland care section.
  The oaks woods spring up on their own even far from any visible oak tree, I imagine due to the services of jays that bury acorns, so do nuthatches. When they convert the woods into farms  they clear the woods to reduce the number of trees.
Junipers grow up into thick forest here too, i think that is because sheep eat their fruits and we know how often they shit so dispersing the seeds i have photos of hilliside scovered in junipers all of the same age more or less.  The junipers they have here have a hard wood that used to serve for beams take the place of iron . thjuniper woods are  thinned out too and sheep are farmed at their feet i think this supports my idea that they are thinned out to reduce fire risk.. I dont know when the fire risk creates a worse ecological problem than the only thin not really thick woods creates for the atmosphere or if its better to have a dense population of big trees even  if it gets burnt down often but i suppose a thin population of trees is better than none. YOu could give farmers something that would be very usefull to them in places where there is a shortage of pastures

  I believe that there are places where you could convince farmers to plant trees on their land or allow them on their land  if they think the trees will be usefull to them and so get them to have a more ecological farms and in spain if you stop farmers using the trees  refusing  to let them pollard them and such, then the trees suffer accidents and die, the farmers just find them a nuiscance, they get in the way of their tractors.  agri rose macaskie.
 
                                              
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Another question for you all: just how labour-intensive would this whole endeavour be? How much planting/weeding/etc. time is required, in ball-park terms obviously. To my mind, it appears as though that there are large, initial, up-front capital investments to such a massive-scale endeavour, but in the years that follow (if designed properly), it is really more about having to just collect the benefits of what you've done 20, 30 years before?

Here's a better way of putting it: how much labour does Sepp's farm require? And, does Sepp make money doing it?
 
rose macaskie
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You an bet Sepp makes money he can afford to expand and to hire a digge,r i could not do that sort of thing and dont his children work on his farm, so it supports variouse families. For me that is what makes sepp interesting compared to other permiculturists, his farm is very rentable if the signs don't lie. He started buying and selling as a child.
  Do you turn into an organic farmer if your interest is in bettering soil and reducing the use of poisonouse substances making healthy food and providing a nicer life till you slaughter them but not in enabling everyone to live off their gardens. Organic farming does not include all the social considerations that permaculture includes.
      The social considerations are interesting and important very important but with global warming the greening up of the earth so more carbon is absorbed and less heat stored by soil vegetation shade soil, is so important as to obscure all other considerations for me and so roll on giant permaculture that can resolve that problem that is the first one. Just think how much flooding there has been world wide this year. agri rose macaskie.
 
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When I read the topic, I figured Industrial scale would be a permaculture center large enough to support New York City

In short, not possible, but in length it is but as humans we are not ready for it. (royal we there).

As I used to live in NYC and the surrounding area the closest place to start having a true Permaculture farm would have to be over 1 hour away.

That already destroys one principle factor, buy & sell local.

State parks where NYC already has numerous artificial lakes, ponds and waterways in order to help supply the city with daily water would easily be increased in its water retention and so on.  If it was created out there. 

(this is just all brainstorming without coffee this morning)

However, I don't believe this would work out well.  People would take to heavy machinery very quickly.  Heavy machines that are pricey for upkeep and destroy the soil.  Sepp even advises against this yet uses some himself.  There needs to be a line the person in charge of the permaculture center would not cross IMO.

I am having a hard time getting past all the roadblocks that come with the industrial age as a method of introduction into permaculture.  I just dont see it working.  However, I do for a millionaire.  See other thread.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Heavy machinery is often used in permaculture (lucky dogs who can afford it), to set up  the initial earthworks.  So heavy machinery itself isn't a failing, in my opinion.  But I agree large cities like NYC can't be supported by permaculture.  Before the oil age, the largest cities were around a million people and were surrounded by farmland, not suburbia.  So present-day giant cities almost certainly aren't sustainable.  I think smaller cities possibly could be.  Here's a proposal that discusses a possible sustainable large city (not necessarily permacultural):

http://www.solviva.com/Greyburg_Greendale.htm

 
steward
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Ludi wrote:
Before the oil age, the largest cities were around a million people and were surrounded by farmland, not suburbia. 



obnoxious as they are in their current incarnation, it would be relatively easy (physically, not necessarily politically) to renovate suburbs to yield surplus food.  I can't say with any certainty that suburbs could feed large cities, but if urban horticulture was given priority as well, I don't think it would be completely out of the question.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Certainly if suburbia were replanned and reconstructed for horticulture (mainly getting rid of extra pavement, lawns, and wasted space), it could produce an enormous amount of food.   
 
                        
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Here is one man's take on it. http://www.verticalfarm.com/.  I can't see  Vertical Farming being the answer he claims it is for a number of reasons but he has managed to get this idea past  a bunch of publications including Scientific American; which sorta shows there needs to be some heavy duty educating of editors. (imo)

He clearly has not spent time in many commercial greenhouses when he claims then to be organic ! The greenhouses in southern Ontario alone that are used to grown tomatoes and such spawn hundreds of TONS yearly of unreusable rockwool which is full of chemicals...that's how hydroponic plants are fed, after all. It's a massive disposal problem for them. The growing medium is not usable in perpetuity unless it is thoroughly cleaned between each crop..a job apparently so difficult that it is more cost effective to haul the used stuff away and replace it with fresh. Also, will these buildings be subject to the sort of biohazard treatment as many chicken houses and piggeries endure? what if someone brings in an aphid or red spider mite? He tries to claim there would be no health issues with any plants grown this way..he has clearly not read of the various treatments for viruses alone that are offered to greenhouse operators... anyone who thinks most commercial greenhouses are organic...well  I guess they might still believe in the tooth fairy.

That doesn't even start to address the light question, and how the plants are to be lit; anyone who has ever grown anything on a windowsill in the winter knows that without extra light the results are generally sort of feeble. So...how much energy for lights across the depth of each floor, and heat will be required ( possibly also cooling in the summer?- buildings in the "asphalt jungle" can get far too hot for plants to be happy) how will it be generated and how expensive will that be? One reader in S>A> did some calculations and came to the conclusion it would at present prices cost  several trillion dollars ANNUALLY to supply the lights these would require, should as many of them be built in the States as the good professor says are needed. Cheap food? don't think so!

No doubt Monsanto will be chuckling in its corporate beard with the seeming success of the book just published. As a society we are seemingly in love with the idea that technology will save the day. Apparently  there is a tower possibly being built in Dubai (where else!!) http://inhabitat.com/2010/03/01/the-oasis-tower-a-helical-vertical-farm-for-dubai/  perhaps then there will be some hard data to look at.  There is  an outfit in Texas which has  the plants growing in stacked arms, which then rotate constantly. They say they are having good success with lettuce. (Dizzy lettuce? ) Lettuce is wonderful, but hardly the answer to a balanced diet.

Vertical gardening can  in some cases be a very useful concept, but I just can't see how rice paddies and wheat fields in derelict downtown Manhatten industrial buildings - or even new five story ones..could possibly be a viable project. BUT>>if nobody so far has caught any of these problems except  various readers of Scientific American and such..some governments may well jump on the bandwagon and spend masses of money in developing such a thing.

The guy who has just written the book suggesting that vertical farming is the holy grail which will feed the world  is a university professor. Goes to show how out of touch with reality sometimes some  people in ivory towers can be, and how with the right credentials, nobody challenges what they say. The Emperor's New Clothes, anyone?..again, imo.
 
Tyler Ludens
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The vertical farm comes up every few decades.  I remember pictures of vertical farming proposals in National Geographic back in the 1970s.  To my knowledge not a single one has ever been built.  I predict none ever will be. 
 
Paul Cereghino
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I recall one of the simple definitions that Mollison provided for evaluation of a system is that it traps and stores more energy then required for its construction and maintenance.
 
                                              
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Vertical farming, in my humble opinion, is stupidity. The problem is not a lack of land, it's a lack of properly-used land.
 
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