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Is anyone really doing permaculture?  RSS feed

 
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Andrew Mateskon wrote:Trade has been necessary for human cultures since the beginning, why would you characterize permaculture as somehow only successful if it can eliminate trade from human endeavors? Why is success measured, for you, by how independent the farmer becomes with permaculture? What kind of permaculture designer implements a (in this case cultural) system thinking that the system is closed, and no parts should be interconnected?



Kyrt Ryder wrote:There is a middle ground, Eric, of producing much of one's food but having a few specializations for the sake of trade [aka commerce.]



Tyler Ludens wrote:I've never seen any claim that permaculture demands the practitioner to provide every single thing they may want, that they can never buy or trade for anything with anyone.



I'm assuming this string of responses is in response to me, but I don't see why you all think my understanding of permaculture success is inconsistent with trade. I did ask, "Or a community of permaculture people that collectively accomplish these things, truly going beyond minimum organic standards in pursuit of permaculture goals?" Secondly, the 90% of your own food metric wasn't my metric; that was Paul's metric. Am I to understand that most permaculture people would take issue with Paul on that metric of advancement?

A major difficulty/challenge I see with common notions of trading, though, is that the idea of trading frequently seems to wind up being an excuse to abandon responsibility for our agricultural footprints altogether. In other words, it's mostly not as if Pemaculture-Bob is growing permaculture barley and trading (or buying and selling) with Permaculture-Joe for permaculture beer and with Permaculture-Sam for permaculture acorn flour, etc. Most of the food items I asked about aren't available for trade/purchase in hardly any of the locations where the people on this forum (myself included) live, not grown to standards that can so much as compare to USDA organic, and they represent a huge portion of most people's (in or out of permaculture circles) calories.

If commodity organic is good enough, why concern ourselves personally (or as a community) with any questions of agricultural responsibility at all? If there's a lot more that's worth working for, how and where are we ever going to begin? How are we going to change the world if we're not going to seriously change our own agricultural footprints?

The trouble, as I said, is that so much of what most of us are used to eating isn't available to buy/trade except from the likes of Walmart (maybe sometimes with classier brand management and misleading marketing gimmicks to appeal to eco sympathies but still representing the very same system of agriculture), and since so many people would rather trade than grow (and process, etc.) most of these things for himself, no one does them, no one develops alternatives to any of these things (and the few that do are considered too expensive or their products are considered too time-consuming in the kitchen or too different from the corporate-industrial food people are used to), and so there's no one to trade with that represents a level of agricultural responsibility substantially different from Walmart. If people sympathetic to permaculture's goals are ever going to grow anything close to a whole responsible, alternative food system, they're going to have to mostly start by feeding themselves, and then they can try to expand from there. And people are doing just that. I don't personally happen to know of any that are doing so even to what Paul calls a middle level, at least I don't know of any yet, that identify with permaculture, but if and to the degree that permaculture is facilitating these kinds of steps toward agricultural responsibility, I think it will be to the permaculture movement's credit and credibility.

I've shared some of my thoughts on trade, but please don't take that as my central point. If you can accomplish the same goals some other way, great. But if the permaculture movement is moving anyone in the direction of growing 90% of his own food (individually or in community!), and then going orders of magnitude beyond that with the higher levels of the eco scale, there must be summaries of some prominent examples. A 3 minute interview like of that couple is about all it would take or a comparable written summary.
 
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I think Paul's 90% metric might work well if one is going by weight rather than calories.

That means the vast bulk of one's produce has zero food miles.

As for the staple calories, that's a decision everyone has to make for themselves that's limited in part by their space [which is in and of itself limited by their climate, space can grow more or less dependent on climatic factors] and in part by their available time to invest sweat into ramping up production.

Another perspective that appeals to me, is thinking of the Eco Scale as a basic philosophy, a set of reasonable goals one dude in Montana feels is appropriate and as a decent foundation from which to cultivate your own.

After all, who cares what some other person feels about what quantifies as what level of eco? What matters is that you feel good about where you're at and- more importantly- where you're headed.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Eric Brown wrote:The trouble, as I said, is that so much of what most of us are used to eating isn't available to buy/trade except from the likes of Walmart (maybe sometimes with classier brand management and misleading marketing gimmicks to appeal to eco sympathies but still representing the very same system of agriculture), and since so many people would rather trade than grow (and process, etc.) most of these things for himself, no one does them, no one develops alternatives to any of these things (and the few that do are considered too expensive or their products are considered too time-consuming in the kitchen or too different from the corporate-industrial food people are used to), and so there's no one to trade with that represents a level of agricultural responsibility substantially different from Walmart.


I know I'm double posting here, but I wanted to highlight this particular piece and ask about it independently.

Can you please list these products you mention being unavailable?

Sometimes quality producers fly somewhat under the radar because the demand exceeds production to such an extent that there's no need for advertising.

It's also possible that these are niches that nobody is filling, and might inspire a future reader to pursue commerce in these fields.

Lastly, not every group needs every product. Personally speaking I am in the process of transitioning away from the use of refined sugar ever again in my life. A bit of comb honey or dehydrated fruit [figs and persimmons in particular] is more than enough sweetness for me.
 
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Eric Brown wrote: Secondly, the 90% of your own food metric wasn't my metric; that was Paul's metric. Am I to understand that most permaculture people would take issue with Paul on that metric of advancement?



I think some people would see Paul's standards as unusually high. I could make a religious analogy, but we're not supposed to talk about religion. Anyway, the standards Paul sets are goals which not everyone can achieve. This does not mean these people aren't practicing permaculture, simply that they have not yet achieved Paul's standard. Permaculture is a process, not an "off" or "on" state. Some people are practicing permaculture better than others. I think most people would see Geoff Lawton and Sepp Holzer as two prominent examples of really good permaculturists, but somewhere in this thread someone said he didn't think Lawton was practicing permaculture because he wasn't producing the maximum amount of food from his land, or something. But both of these men buy some of their needs and wants (shoes and clothing at least) probably from people who aren't permaculturists.

I'm also not convinced that everyone practicing permaculture is required to be a farmer. I simply can't grow most of my own food, clothing, etc. But I don't think that means I'm not practicing permaculture. It would be very discouraging to most people interested in permaculture to demand that they produce all their needs and wants or they aren't practicing permaculture. I think they'd give up before trying.

 
Eric Brown
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Can you please list these products you mention being unavailable?



Let me first be more specific about what I consider the minimum standards for being content to buy or trade for something instead of growing it or earnestly trying to/working toward growing it myself. This is just how I personally come at it, but I've heard plenty of very compatible things said by permaculture people. First of all, although I couldn't care less about whether something is certified organic, it should at least meet the basic requirements of organic. (I read in another thread that if it isn't OMRI-approved, then it's not even fit to enter into discussion on these forums, so I don't feel like I'm stretching the ideas of this forum by applying the same kind of principles to the question at hand.) That means, in my words, no organically disallowed fertilizers, pesticides, medications, GMO's, and no animal products using any of those things for the feed. That's what I mean by the basics. Secondly, it has to be local, but my definition of "local" has a different emphasis than when most people talk about local. For example, if I happen to live close to some big USDA organic farm that's producing something to sell all over the country, I don't really consider that local, but if my mother-in-law, who lives far from local, is coming to visit anyway, and she offers to bring me some no-spray pears from her tree that she canned, sweetened with honey from my own bees, that completely meets my standards. Most of the time the different definitions of local overlap, but to me the essential value in local isn't about how far something traveled to get to me but rather the connection between the producer and the consumers that shapes how the farmer farms. If a farmer is having to compete in the USDA organic marketplace, then that's going to have a huge influence on the decisions he makes about how to farm. The chief value in local to me is that the farmer can reasonably communicate his reasons for farming the way he thinks best to his customers, and his customers can choose to pay whatever it takes to support those choices. Otherwise we're never going to improve on the cheapest possible way of meeting the minimum USDA organic standards (and those standards are probably going to erode and get corrupted over time anyway.) For animal products, to meet these standards, I expect animals to be fed predominantly on feed that is both local and organic. So those are my standards.

And so by those standards, here's my list of things I don't believe I could buy at all, in answer to your question. (I'm located in the western Piedmont of North Carolina, by the way, which I'd say has a relatively strong local food scene.)
1. Any kind of food grain or grain product other than possibly corn and popcorn -- I'm not sure on this one, because I've grown my own for a long time and haven't had much reason to search -- and if I drive 80 miles also wheat flour. One could make those one's primary or sole grain staples, but it would cost at least $3/lb (plus the drive), so if I can grow it for any less than that, then I'm certainly better off growing it myself. That completely leaves out any kind of rice (except possibly for $15-20/lb at about 120 miles away), oats, buckwheat, millet, or any of the less common grains or pseudo-grains. And it definitely excludes any processed grain products like ready-made bread, tortillas, granola, pasta, crackers, breakfast cereal, etc.
2. Any kind of dry bean/pea/lentil at all.
3. Any kind of dairy, cow's or goat: milk, yogurt, butter, ice cream, cheese, etc.
4. Pork (lard, bacon, ham, etc.)
5. Any poultry or eggs.
6. Any other kind of meat besides beef.
7. Any kind of nut except possibly pecans maybe once in three years on average.
8. Beer, wine, or any other kind of alcohol. There is a local USDA organic vineyard that grows mostly native grapes and hybrids, but they add other non-organic things to all of their wines, despite growing the grapes organically, because they feel that's the only way they can appeal to a minimally necessary volume of customers.
9. Any kind of oil or oil seed (or animal fat other than beef fat and only by buying at least a quarter share of a whole beef and not very reliably even then.)
10. Any kind of fish.
11. Honey or any other kind of sweetener besides sorghum syrup and that not very reliably (only about every second or third year.)

Fruit would be limited (in comparison to the many fruits one could easily enough grow organically for oneself) and very pricey if you wanted to do things like dehydrating figs ($5-6/quart for fresh figs) and persimmons (native and Asian persimmons are both fairly easy to grow organically here, but one could only buy the natives for probably about $4-5/quart.)

Back before chemical fertilizers and pesticides, etc. there would have been lots of options for almost every one of the above categories, so it's not that a wide variety of these things can't be grown here organically; it's just that profitably growing these things for market is extremely limiting.

I'd note, too -- this is probably obvious -- that the above list covers a huge percentage of what almost everyone eats, no matter what kind of diet he follows, and no matter how you measure things. I do, however, think that counting by calories (or acreage footprint) makes more sense than counting by pounds, especially because water weight/moisture content is minimally significant but has a huge impact on pounds. Dollars would be another potential metric, better I think than pounds, but not as good as calories or acres.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Looks like the problem isn't so much that nobody is practicing permaculture, but that not enough people are practicing permaculture. I agree, it would be great if everyone were practicing permaculture!

 
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I started a thread to try to find permie sources of those products: http://www.permies.com/t/53420/resources/Permaculture-sources#436015

 
Kyrt Ryder
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1: I'll confess I tend not to think too hard about grain because I'm trying to phase most of it out of my diet. Even so, in North Carolina I imagine you should be able to pull off a Fukuoka-style no-till-two-grain-rotation if you tried [myself and another forumite are trying to pull this off in the Pacifc Northwest and we need to breed shorter season winter grain to make it work in our cooler climate.] Barley or Wheat over the winter and relatively short-ish season Corn or a Pseudo-Grain [Amaranth or Flax or Buckwheat perhaps] over the summer. Fukuoka predicts a quarter acre to feed one person in a primarily grain-oriented diet. True Grains [Corn, Rice, Barley, Wheat, etc] are going to be challenging to find for purchase from a permaculture style operation because of the depressed market for these products. Trying to create a premium one for premium product is an extreme challenge. Meat- by comparison- is easy.

2: Another challenging market, but one that seems a good deal more easy to break into than true grains. There's quite a gourmet aspect to pulses one could tap into. Yields for this are probably best for those who can grow them in their home garden though, 20 pounds per hundred foot row in PNW dryfarming conditions [spring water for the soil and summer drought] speaks very well to a home gardener's ability to produce these for their own family in the Southeast, barring diseases. [If you find you have diseases, breed around them until they aren't a big issue for you anymore.]

3: Adam Klaus sets a very strong example for permaculture Dairy and- in his appearance on the Permaculture Voices Podcast- makes a very strong case for the profitability of this niche at a small scale with a few cows for local customers. I don't know anything about your region, but here in Pierce County Washington I've got access to several such producers selling raw milk grown with minimal [not as a dietary component, but a bit as treats now and then] grain.

4: You can't find pastured pork where you are? It's a premium product to be sure, but you are really missing out. As a note for home production on a limited scale if you're lacking in space, 'Natural' Pig Farming is a pretty decent tertiary option over rotational pasture or simply having the pigs nuke garden space on a rotational basis.

5: You can't find pastured poultry or eggs either? This, this right here is your niche if you want to take it. This space is very easy to get into and if managed right can be very profitable, particularly the eggs. Particularly if you bypass the common-as-dirt chicken eggs and go for a more premium product like duck eggs for example.

6: Try finding your local lamb producers and seeing how they run their operations, lamb is fairly low maintenance meat [depending on the breed of sheep, some have been bred to depend on grain the same way some cattle breeds have] that many 'conventional' farmers are raising in a way that is fairly close to our ideals.

7: Can't speak to nuts, I don't eat much of them. Long-term I want pockets of nut overstory 'forest' interspersed in my pasture for Pork and Turkey production, but the climate for nuts here is FAR different than where you are. Are you able to grow your own? For personal consumption it doesn't require very many trees to provide a family all the nuts they need [in most diets anyway.]

8: Have you seen the craft beer and craft cider industry? I guarantee you some of the people involved in those are some of us. Granted I have an advantage here given my region, but I can assure you there are people doing this and if we support them over time that number should grow. This is also a pretty profitable option btw.

9: I used to buy my cooking fat from USWellness meats at 30ish bucks for a 5 gallon bucket of Grass-fed tallow. No clue how close to permie they are, but they seem fairly close. Nowadays I just save my own from homegrown pork.

10: I'm not sure how commercial fish can be permie right now- for a temperate climate. Fish is primarily fed fish harvested from the ocean in massively excessive quantities and farmed under very non-permie conditions. Home permie production of fish isn't too difficult though, an excellent way to add diversity to the diet and to the farm ecosystem. If you mastered this for commercial production though, you'd have a real premium product on your hands.

11: I personally know people doing permie honey and maple syrup for profit.


You raise some good points, thank you for your comments Eric.

 
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Eric:
A major difficulty/challenge I see with common notions of trading, though, is that the idea of trading frequently seems to wind up being an excuse to abandon responsibility for our agricultural footprints altogether. In other words, it's mostly not as if Pemaculture-Bob is growing permaculture barley and trading (or buying and selling) with Permaculture-Joe for permaculture beer and with Permaculture-Sam for permaculture acorn flour, etc. Most of the food items I asked about aren't available for trade/purchase in hardly any of the locations where the people on this forum (myself included) live, not grown to standards that can so much as compare to USDA organic, and they represent a huge portion of most people's (in or out of permaculture circles) calories.

If commodity organic is good enough, why concern ourselves personally (or as a community) with any questions of agricultural responsibility at all? If there's a lot more that's worth working for, how and where are we ever going to begin? How are we going to change the world if we're not going to seriously change our own agricultural footprints?



I think frequently trading does seem to wind up an excuse to abandon responsibility for agricultural footprints, but conversely, it is also frequently an excuse to deepen our responsibility for agricultural footprints. You mention it yourself, in further posts, local trade is the key to a responsible footprint. The emphasis being on the word local.

It is precisely that Permaculture-Bob is growing barley and trading with Permaculture-Joe. I realize that I am much luckier than some other people in this regard. Jon grows sheep and pigs, Crystal grows eggs, beef, pigs, and veggies. Bob milks his Jersey Cow named Bessie. Luke breeds the pigs and sells the weaners. I make the beer, I grow the useful trees and shrubs in nursery. No, we haven't replaced every need with permaculture, but we share ideas and deepen out ability to provide, we are stacking functions between us. The system grows with each new person contributing their elements, and becomes more resilient. This is the way forward, in my opinion, because it creates resiliency at a community level, and an attendant feedback of resiliency at an independent producer level. In many systems, the higher levels of organization have an outsized impact on the lower levels of organization. Therefore, creating community relationships is more important to the success of each node in the web of relationships than any given node is to the success of the entire web. When elements come together, they become more than the sum of their parts. Isn't this type of synergy the reason we stack functions in permaculture?

I don't think anyone said that "commodity organic is good enough," or suggested it. Admittedly, I take issue with the word "organic" more than the word "commodity", though. Organic is not enough. Organic merely replaces one input for another, in most cases, instead of actually designing the entire system for success requiring little to no inputs.

So, how do we begin? Well, change is a process. Surely we should be changing our own practices to lessen our footprint, just as you suggest. However, this does not preclude us from helping really immense farmers to small homesteaders to urban growers also begin to change. If your solution to an industrial commodity farmer is 5,000 acres of herb spirals or hugel beds, go for it, but don't expect much success. On the other hand, if you can help the farmer implement relatively easy changes (that save $$, or increase profits), and you make it easy for them to say yes, it does not make you a hypocrite at all if you didn't produce 90% of your own calories. Looking at Paul's eco-scale, this vaults you from a level of 1-2-3 or -4, to maybe a level 8. Surely you are responsible for a huge amount of carbon sequestration getting a farmer to change from industrial commodity cropping to using cover crops to planting polycultures to implementing keyline design to planting perennials to rotating animals to eventually being a Mark Shepard or Gabe Brown. Maintaining this particular farmer relationship means that maybe you get a quarter share in a holistic management grown cow every year, and he gets a case of homemade beer every month. Circling back, he is still growing commodities, but permaculture-grown commodities. Now he only has to sell the excess at commodity prices, and can sell the rest to a local customer base because the quality is so much higher, and it is what people want. He starts making more money, his farmer buddies (in my town, all the farmers get together at the local diner "community table" to gossip and talk about the rain) check out his practices, and they begin to change, too. They call you for help. Suddenly you've gone up to Eco Scale Level 9, Darren Doherty level. Of course, your own farm is the model. All the while you help everyone with their implementation, you are building your own. Maybe it is smaller, maybe it is just an acre of beautifully managed permaculture, with examples of the most successful large scale techniques for your region. Change occurs co-incidentally, it is a fallacy to suppose that we must achieve some level of perfection before becoming agents of change. So, if not necessarily with ourselves, if not looking at change merely as a personal endeavor, but as a systemic necessity, where do we begin?

There is already a formula for this. Donella Meadows has shown us the way.

We identify leverage points, or places to intervene in the system.

Lifted from Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_leverage_points

"The following are in increasing order of effectiveness.

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards)[edit]
Parameters are points of lowest leverage effects. Though they are the most clearly perceived among all leverages, they rarely change behaviors and therefore have little long-term effect.

For example, climate parameters may not be changed easily (the amount of rain, the evapotranspiration rate, the temperature of the water), but they are the ones people think of first (they remember that in their youth, it was certainly raining more). These parameters are indeed very important. But even if changed (improvement of upper river stream to canalize incoming water), they will not change behavior much (the debit will probably not dramatically decrease).

11. The size of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows[edit]
A buffer's ability to stabilize a system is important when the stock amount is much higher than the potential amount of inflows or outflows. In the lake, the water is the buffer: if there's a lot more of it than inflow/outflow, the system stays stable.

For example, the inhabitants are worried the lake fish might die as a consequence of hot water release directly in the lake without any previous cooling off.

However, the water in the lake has a large heat capacity, so it's a strong thermic buffer. Provided the release is done at low enough depth, under the thermocline, and the lake volume is big enough, the buffering capacity of the water might prevent any extinction from excess temperature.

Buffers can improve a system, but they are often physical entities whose size is critical and can't be changed easily.

10. Structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport network, population age structures)[edit]
A system's structure may have enormous effect on operations, but may be difficult or prohibitively expensive to change. Fluctuations, limitations, and bottlenecks may be easier to address.

For example, the inhabitants are worried about their lake getting polluted, as the industry releases chemical pollutants directly in the water without any previous treatment. The system might need the used water to be diverted to a wastewater treatment plant, but this requires rebuilding the underground used water system (which could be quite expensive).

9. Length of delays, relative to the rate of system changes[edit]
Information received too quickly or too late can cause over- or underreaction, even oscillations.

For example, the city council is considering building the wastewater treatment plant. However, the plant will take 5 years to be built, and will last about 30 years. The first delay will prevent the water being cleaned up within the first 5 years, while the second delay will make it impossible to build a plant with exactly the right capacity.

8. Strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the effect they are trying to correct against[edit]
A negative feedback loop slows down a process, tending to promote stability. The loop will keep the stock near the goal, thanks to parameters, accuracy and speed of information feedback, and size of correcting flows.

For example, one way to avoid the lake getting more and more polluted might be through setting up an additional levy on the industrial plant based on measured concentrations of its effluent. Say the plant management has to pay into a water management fund, on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the actual amount of waste found in the lake; they will, in this case, receive a direct benefit not just from reducing their waste output, but actually reducing it enough to achieve the desired effect of reducing concentrations in the lake. They cannot benefit from "doing damage more slowly" -- only from actually helping. If cutting emissions, even to zero, is insufficient to allow the lake to naturally purge the waste, then they will still be on the hook for cleanup. This is similar to the US "Superfund" system, and follows the widely accepted "polluter pays" principle.

7. Gain around driving positive feedback loops[edit]
A positive feedback loop speeds up a process. Meadows indicates that in most cases, it is preferable to slow down a positive loop, rather than speeding up a negative one.

The eutrophication of a lake is a typical feedback loop that goes wild. In a eutrophic lake (which means well-nourished), lots of life can be supported (fish included).

An increase of nutrients will lead to an increase of productivity, growth of phytoplankton first, using up as much nutrients as possible, followed by growth of zooplankton, feeding up on the first ones, and increase of fish populations. The more available nutrients there are, the more productivity is increased. As plankton organisms die, they fall to the bottom of the lake, where their matter is degraded by decomposers.

However, this degradation uses up available oxygen, and in the presence of huge amounts of organic matter to degrade, the medium progressively becomes anoxic (there is no more oxygen available). In time, all oxygen-dependent life dies, and the lake becomes a smelly anoxic place where no life can be supported (in particular no fish).

6. Structure of information flow (who does and does not have access to what kinds of information)[edit]
Information flow is neither a parameter, nor a reinforcing or slowing loop, but a loop that delivers new information. It is cheaper and easier to change information flows than it is to change structure.

For example, a monthly public report of water pollution level, especially nearby the industrial release, could have a lot of effect on people's opinions regarding the industry, and lead to changes in the waste water level of pollution.
5. Rules of the system (such as incentives, punishment, constraints)[edit]
Pay attention to rules, and to who makes them.

For example, a strengthening of the law related to chemicals release limits, or an increase of the tax amount for any water containing a given pollutant, will have a very strong effect on the lake water quality.

4. Power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure[edit]
Self-organization describes a system's ability to change itself by creating new structures, adding new negative and positive feedback loops, promoting new information flows, or making new rules.

For example, microorganisms have the ability to not only change to fit their new polluted environment, but also to undergo an evolution that makes them able to biodegrade or bioaccumulate chemical pollutants. This capacity of part of the system to participate in its own eco-evolution is a major leverage for change.

3. Goal of the system[edit]
Changing goals changes every item listed above: parameters, feedback loops, information and self-organization.

A city council decision might be to change the goal of the lake from making it a free facility for public and private use, to a more tourist oriented facility or a conservation area. That goal change will effect several of the above leverage points: information on water quality will become mandatory and legal punishment will be set for any illegal effluent.

2. Mindset or paradigm that the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises from[edit]
A societal paradigm is an idea, a shared unstated assumption, or a system of thought that is the foundation of complex social structures. Paradigms are very hard to change, but there are no limits to paradigm change. Meadows indicates paradigms might be changed by repeatedly and consistently pointing out anomalies and failures in the current paradigm to those with open minds.

A current paradigm is "Nature is a stock of resources to be converted to human purpose". What might happen to the lake were this collective idea changed ?
1. Power to transcend paradigms[edit]
Transcending paradigms may go beyond challenging fundamental assumptions, into the realm of changing the values and priorities that lead to the assumptions, and being able to choose among value sets at will.

Many today see Nature as a stock of resources to be converted to human purpose. Many Native Americans see Nature as a living god, to be loved, worshipped, and lived with. These views are incompatible, but perhaps another viewpoint could incorporate them both, along with others."



 
Eric Brown
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Tyler Ludens wrote:it would be great if everyone were practicing permaculture!



Tyler, thanks for your responses before and after my last post. I didn't see the one immediately before until after I posted the last post.

You said a couple things about "everyone." I think those are fine questions to consider and try to answer, but I don't think I meant for any of my questions to be applied to "everyone." My main question is all about the best examples that can be shared and talked about. Obviously some people will have accomplished more than others, will be higher on the eco scale, etc. I'm not trying to lay any criticisms on the low level people, but I would like to hear about people that have accomplished Paul's mid-level metrics with food (either individually or in community, particularly in some location in the US or similar to the US that I could relate to.) So to respond to your comment that I quoted, I'd like to see some examples of where permaculture can take people. It's a fair question, but I guess I'm personally not so interested in the hypothetical question of what it would look like if everyone started with the beginning steps. I'm most interested in what kind of outstanding examples there are from the mid-level steps, particularly when someone's food-agricultural footprint is 90%+ shaped by reasonably mature permaculture principles, free of the kind of compromises that may be commonly necessary/unavoidable in the earlier stages. Of course, food is just one aspect, but it's very important and fundamental, and it especially interests me.

Kurt, thanks for your very careful and thoughtful point by point response. Instead of talking about myself, I really meant to speak much more broadly to the question of the potential for buying and trading in contrast to more narrowly defined self-sufficiency, merely using my own location as an example of the kind of limits that are more or less the same in lots and lots of places. So consider my responses here in the same light. In other words, I'm content to grow/work towards the goal of growing (or foraging, etc.) a lot of these things for myself, but that's only because I don't seem to see as much potential in trading as you do, especially not without people primarily doing these things for themselves.

That's not to say I don't informally trade with neighbors. I've actually done quite a lot of that. Neighbors have also been very generous with me just giving me things (not that I'm needy, but I just have generous neighbors.) However, almost all of the food things I've gotten from neighbors aren't things I (or anyone else) could buy from them, and they're almost all things that my neighbors are primarily doing for themselves and merely sharing the perishable surpluses from the good years with me. So they're not available to buy. They're extremely unreliable. They're often just token quantities (although cumulatively they're significant.) They hardly ever consist of grains, pulses, or oil/oilseeds (precisely because people rarely grow these things for themselves), and if they do consist of dairy, pork, poultry/eggs, alcohol, or honey, they're almost always major compromises of the standards I laid out, i.e. generous gifts but generally a step backwards on the eco scale from supermarket organic.

As far as what can be bought:
1. Grains can, as you suggest, certainly be grown here local-organically. Like I said before a wide variety of items from almost all these categories used to be grown here before local agriculture was subsumed by industrialization and globalization.
2. A variety of pulses can also certainly be grown here as in most places people live, but the extreme rarity of local pulses on the market in any "first world" location indicates to me that the current market potential for pulses anywhere except in the home garden is extremely limited. Selling to alternative, niche markets and growing at that scale, even before forfeiting any cost-saving shortcuts for the sake of permaculture principles, adds substantially to cost/price. Where local pulses can be found, I think the relative price compared to the most affordable USDA organic pulses is greater than about anything else (at least 300% and probably 500 to 1500% of USDA organic prices). I believe in the value of community food sovereignty and organic principles no matter how cheap industrialized food gets in comparison, but customers are really going to have to know and trust their farmer before they pay 10 times the price of USDA organic for something that probably doesn't look or taste any better.
3. Raw milk from minimal grain dairies is available here locally, but I'm not aware of any such dairies that feed organic grain, let alone grain that represents any improvement over USDA organic minimum standards. Pasteurized all grass fed milk is also available, but all grass fed still allows for synthetic fertilizers, herbicides (used especially to prepare for planting annual forages), heat synchronizing hormone injections and other organically disallowed medications... things that may be used on raw milk dairies, too. There are also USDA organic dairies locally, but all of that milk is shipped to a processing plant three states away.
4&5. There are lots of pastured pork and poultry, but similarly, in every pastured pork/poultry operation I've heard about, the grain inputs are very significant in all of these products, and I've never heard of any grain that represents an improvement over commodity organic (and it's mostly far inferior.) That's not to say that I'm currently do much (or any) better, but it certainly leaves clear room for improvement over what's available to buy on the marketplace.
6. Lamb (and goat meat) might be more feasible in other parts of the country. Parasites may be a bigger limitation in the Southeast. Sheep can be managed here without organically disallowed medications but the solutions (careful rotation schedules, rotations that involve other species, including more browse in rotations, etc.) are relatively labor-intensive, and most organically inclined customers don't understand or care enough about these details to pay an additional premium for these steps, so the producers willing/forced to use synthetic de-wormers (and synthetic fertilizers, herbicides...) are the only ones I'm aware of in the marketplace.
7. Yes, there's plenty of potential for growing and wild harvesting a nice variety of tree nuts and peanuts, limited only by the time it takes some species to reach bearing age; they're just not for sale, probably for cost reasons similar to but mostly not as extreme as with pulses.
8. There is a malt house about 120 miles away that opened up within the last 10 years, and I think they have malted some local rye or wheat. I can't remember if it was USDA organic, but it's difficult for those kind of operations to justify paying a premium for local and then an additional premium for organic standards... and it's difficult for them to reliably source the quantities they need locally, which makes it hard for them to market the "local" at all, and the only organic type standards they can effectively communicate to their customers are USDA certification standards, so growers are pretty much forced to compete in the race to the bottom of those minimum standards, unless the malt house chooses to push the local angle instead, in which case there's no premium for any kind of organic. I don't know of anyone that's growing and malting barley on a smaller scale. A smaller scale gets to be very labor-intensive, and most people are focused on the craft of the brewing so much that the agricultural footprint is forgotten. Even "organic" supermarkets frequently have pathetically small selections of organic beer and wine, it seems to me.
9. Tallow (or beef fat to render into tallow) is the fat one could best hope to buy, but I think lard and oil are much more versatile in the kitchen. Oil seems particularly essential for mayonnaise and salad dressing.
10. I think the biggest issues with buying local fish are legal issues with selling game fish. Those aren't really issues for personal consumption, though. There are other possibilities, but I'm pretty sure they haven't found a way to market here locally.
11. Maple syrup is very doable here on a small scale but not done commercially, probably because there aren't woods full of sugar maples here. There are lots of beekeepers here, but they almost always have a heavy footprint in conventional sugar or corn syrup as feed, especially if they're trying to compete in the marketplace (similar to the issues with lamb.) Robbing honey hard and feeding lots of cheap syrup just makes a world of sense from a profit perspective.

Thanks for all the shared thoughts and ideas!
 
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Is this a fair interpretation of your question Eric?

How can we live a permaculture lifestyle with a diet simular to what we are use to eating in the Western lifestyle? You give some great examples of what that diet looks like, and the challenges to acquiring the ingredients.

I'm completely oversimplifying the issue, I know. I would love to understand the heart of the issue in two sentences or less.

Your posts here bring up some very good points and a great many questions I've been asking myself for a long time. I would love to explore them further, but I don't want to fall off on a tangent by addressing the wrong issue.


And for the school of thought that says "no, we have to radically alter our diet if we want to be permaculturists", please hang back a while. I might not be interpreting the question correctly.


Edit to add: this is now my favourite definition of local.

... to me the essential value in local isn't about how far something traveled to get to me but rather the connection between the producer and the consumers that shapes how the farmer farms.

 
r ranson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I started a thread to try to find permie sources of those products: http://www.permies.com/t/53420/resources/Permaculture-sources#436015



Great idea. I started the list, but it's going to take a few posts to go through them all.

One of the things I'm thinking about is that each part of the world is going to have different solutions to those challenges. If we can make that thread a brainstorm of solutions than maybe it can inspire people to find solutions that might fit their own part of the world. (brainstorm is now a noun because of local beer, from locally grown barley that grew 5 min drive from my farm, malted goodness knows where, and was brewed 3 minutes from my farm. And now I realize I shouldn't be online any longer because if I'm inventing nouns then beer has had it's effect.)
 
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Doesn't the earth itself meets all the permie goals of self-sustaining food production. So isn't everyone doing permaculture? I think the deal is that individuals get cut off, for various reasons, from the natural food supply and then have to try to re-create a self-sustaining permaculture system on small, isolated lots.
 
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Benton Lewis wrote:Doesn't the earth itself meets all the permie goals of self-sustaining food production. So isn't everyone doing permaculture?



I think in an ideal world, or the world of the future, that would be true. But it certainly isn't the case now, if the word "permaculture" has any meaning. I agree with you that our division from the community of life makes us have to start over from scratch on an individual level. That's why I see practicing permaculture as a continuum, as we immerse ourselves more and more into the community of life on Earth, as partners in that community, instead of enemies.



 
Eric Brown
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R Ranson wrote:You give some great examples of what that diet looks like, and the challenges to acquiring the ingredients.

I'm completely oversimplifying the issue, I know. I would love to understand the heart of the issue in two sentences or less.



I didn't mean to say anything about diet really. Personally, there aren't any halfway normal food categories that I'm opposed to. I think my lists covered about every food category anyone anywhere in the world or in history has ever built a diet from except for vegetables, mushrooms, and insects (grasshoppers...), and I'm not opposed to those either. (I guess I didn't talk about coffee, spices, herbs, coffee, other flavorings... either.) If I missed any other categories, I don't think I meant to. I do have strong beliefs about responsible agricultural production, though, so how food is produced definitely matters to me, and that indirectly influences my diet choices. For example, although I'm not at all opposed to fish, I feel like my current options for fish are relatively poor and/or relatively expensive, so I hardly eat any fish, but I hope to develop better options for myself with time, and I certainly wouldn't discourage someone else from eating a lot more fish than I currently do, even if I'm mostly talking about the things I know more about. For another example, I would have no trouble understanding if someone else wanted to avoid grains because grains weren't consistent with his vision of permaculture, but that raises the question of how those calories can otherwise be met in a way that is fairly consistent with permaculture principles.

So as far as my discussion of food categories, my intention wasn't to outline any kind of diet in any way. My intention was to point out how huge the challenges would be (how many things would be unavailable to purchase) if one wanted to reach the 90% (and really even the 50%) mark, certainly the way I think makes sense to count it (as I described before), relying on what one could currently buy in locations like mine (and I think my location is as good an example as any.) In other words, it's not that I'm at all opposed to trade, but I am opposed to being content with the best of what's currently available on the market if we could make major improvements by doing things for ourselves instead. If the choice is between a narrower vision of self-sufficiency, on the one hand, and either accepting compromises to the basics of organic principles across a large part of one's agricultural footprint, or accepting USDA organic (or the equivalent in other countries) as the complete answer to responsible agriculture, on the other hand, then I don't think it's at all unreasonable to at least consider a goal of growing (foraging, etc.) 90% of one's food, especially if one values permaculture principles. So my point in discussing the various food categories was to make the case for why permaculture principles would reasonably lead some people to want to pursue a 90%+ self-sufficient diet.

And so my question, then, to put the heart of the issue in one or two sentences is this: I want to hear/read about clear (but not necessarily super detailed/lengthy) examples of people that have reached the 90% mark following self-identified permaculture principles. It seems like those examples shouldn't be that hard to find (especially if there's any merit in calling that a mid-level achievement like having taken a PDC), but even after reading most of this thread and following several links, I still haven't found any examples that come close. That's the heart of what I'm getting at.

That's not to say that some of the people mentioned in this thread don't fully meet the mark, but if any of them do, I haven't found so much as a simple assertion that any particular person has met the mark, even to the extent that one short interview-video was clear about how much food self-sufficiency that one couple in Oregon had achieved. (That simple interview was clear, but they weren't claiming to even meet the 50% mark, let alone 90%.) The seeming lack of comparable success stories, particularly by the 90% metric (which is a metric that makes sense/seems valuable to me), does make me wonder how effective self-identified permaculture ideas are when it comes to food and agriculture.
 
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Maybe ask the person who decided on the 90% standard for some examples? Or maybe start a new thread asking for examples because most people might not be reading this one anymore.

An example I offer is Geoff Lawton, because he grows all the food groups on his land, as far as I can tell. But as I mentioned, he was rejected as an example by a previous poster because he doesn't yet produce the maximum tonnage of food that his acreage could possibly produce, or something. His farm kitchen provides tens of thousands of meals a year, though.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:he was rejected as an example by a previous poster because he doesn't yet produce the maximum tonnage of food that his acreage could possibly produce, or something.



There are surely a lot of different things that people are looking for out of permaculture, some of them probably at odds with each other. You may be right that my questions can't quite piggy-back on this thread very well. There were multiple interesting stories in this thread, though.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:But as I mentioned, he was rejected as an example by a previous poster because he doesn't yet produce the maximum tonnage of food that his acreage could possibly produce, or something.


That's kind of a moving goalpost anyway. One of Mollison's principles is 'the yield is theoretically unlimited.'

That aside... why on earth would it MATTER if the land was producing as much food as it could? What's important is that it provide what is needed and in turn is provided for. I am going to have to go back through this thread and look for that comment, because that confuses the heck out of me.

EDIT: there's a dude waving a flag around over a 100k farm income... that's an awful lot to expect out of a farm that can produce a great deal of a family's needs. I certainly know I'm not planning to live on 100k when my farm gets up and running. If I HAD 100k coming in [which I might, depending on which land I get and how well I develop my products and market] I'd probably be reinvesting close to half of that back into the business most years.
 
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To answer the OP's actual question, I feel that there are a great many people DOING permaculture. The quandary he runs into is because of the depth of need in our situation.

We as people in general have done immense damage to the ecosystems that support our very existence. The magnitude of the work that needs doing is so extreme that many of those who figure it out go on to champion the cause, transitioning from full time farmers to part time [or perhaps even full time in some cases] activists.

These activists are the names we see, they're the people putting themselves out there to drive change. Unless you buy your meat or vegetables or staples from a standard Permaculture/Agroeccology/Regeneration Farmer living his simple farmer life, you aren't likely to know they exist.
 
r ranson
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Eric Brown wrote:
And so my question, then, to put the heart of the issue in one or two sentences is this: I want to hear/read about clear (but not necessarily super detailed/lengthy) examples of people that have reached the 90% mark following self-identified permaculture principles.



Thank you for clarifying.

I'm curious about this too. A thread like this is a great place to explore this question.

I'm big into history, so I can give you millions of examples of people who lived a life based around sustainable agriculture. This to me is a lot like permaculture in that it works with nature to provide food and necessities for themselves. Hedgerows of the middle ages would be your hugelkultur and food forests of today. So many other similarities. There is a lot to learn from the past. HOWEVER, the past isn't today.

Life now is very different than it was. We can't go back. We have to go forward to go back. And that's the key question of permaculture, isn't it? How can we take what we know of the past, and what we are learning today, and use it to build a permaculture (permanent agriculture, humanculture, permaculture) that can carry us through to the future?

And is anyone actually doing it yet?

Reading this thread, I get a frontier feeling. Like we are almost there... and yet... not quite. One of the big problems is location. Everywhere is different, so when we find one method that works, the method might not work out at our location. Just look at all the people who poo poo Fukuoka's work because his METHOD doesn't travel well. His PHILOSOPHY, however, can be universally applied. It is almost as if, by recognizing the theory and the doing are very different. And yet, one falters without the other.
 
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R Ranson wrote:Just look at all the people who poo poo Fukuoka's work because his METHOD doesn't travel well. His PHILOSOPHY, however, can be universally applied. It is almost as if, by recognizing the theory and the doing are very different. And yet, one falters without the other.

Fukuoka's philosophy is his method, though many don't see that and see the specific techniques he uses as his method.

It's also true that aspects of his techniques [no till, poultry pest control, bare minimum pruning of fruit trees focused on their natural form] DO travel, even if his grain rotation [which is itself a tradition of his place which local farmers were forsaking] does not.
 
r ranson
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There is an equivocation here... aka, we are each using different definitions of the same words... therefore it appears like we are disagreeing when we are possibly saying the exact same thing.

That's probably my fault, I'm in academic mode right now, so I'm using the technical meanings, instead of the vernacular.

We are also going to fall off topic if we go into it here. Perhaps a new thread exploring Fukuoka's writings? He has so much to teach us. And like most dead people's writings, there are many ways to interpret the teachings. It would be fun to explore Fukuoka's philosophy in more depth.

Edit: see, there I go using words like vernacular in a forum setting. Definitely lost in academia tonight.
 
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This thread is really interesting and if I skip fo some days, Gosh! I have to read through really long, inspiring posts. I love how this thread has resurfaced to activity, it seems like a plant that starts to vegetate again after the winter.

I think that we have bare in mind that permaculture is a system of design, it really doesn't have a method to solve every and any problem. I mean swales aren't useful everywhere, water features differ from climate and terrain, but we tend to try and copy.
When we encounter people that have managed to apply design in an effective way we sometimes are taken to systematize their achievements in to methods.
We read a method as a system that can be replicated, and as R Ranson writes, if the method doesn't work people just throw it all away, and say: it doesnìt work! missing the importance of the philosophy.

Permaculture has one great concept taht comes in handy in this moment: mimicking nature.
What does this mean? copying what nature does? many see it like this and thats why we even try to vision the work of other permaculture artisans as methods to copy.
I believe its being inspired and understanding patterns and solutions.
Our world in its last centuries evolution has taught us to accept that there are recipes for every situation and you just apply them, usually these recipes are handed out by others, and we are just clients.
What has permaculture taught me? to read nature, read peoples stories, and be inspired. To think of solutions, not accept them from others, accept in the sense used before contrary to thinking.
I decided that my fixation on building my own furniture not wanting to buy it from big easy firms like Ikea, very well established and cheap in Italy, is permaculture.

What our schools deosnìt teach anymore is creativity, many of us have maintained it or have rediscovered it, there are though even people in permaculture circles that get close to permaculture as if they were going to the grocery store, picking what they need from a shelf.
One big responsibility that we have to bare in mind if teaching, is that we have to teach skills not truth

Just my personal opinion after reading quickly through the last posts maybe I went out f track


 
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Just started reading through this behemoth of a thread, great discussion! I have struggled with the same question as the OP. For me it's very important as a community we directly address the economical impact permaculture's methods and philosophy have. If anyone is following American politics right now, they'd know we have some serious income inequalities. Growing up in Bronx, NY, I know what poverty looks like, and millions are simply looking for a way to make ends meet. "Taking care of the earth" will always loose to "taking care of my family". I believe we must address both in order to see real change.

So while we discuss agrarian lifestyles and fantasies of living off the land, we often fail to directly address the problems that our society is facing, and how permaculture can create solutions. If it is possible for families to make a decent living creating healthy produce on small plots of land, while creating habitat and biodiversity, than it's truly a political, economical, and environmental revolution. We could create thriving communities and finally move away from "manufacturing is the only solution for employing the masses" paradigm. There are movements in Detroit that show real promise, but most sustainable movements are happening in wealthy white cities, where they can spend the extra time and money on gardening. Call me naive, but I see permaculture as a possible solution for income inequalities and racial injustices, just as much as a way to heal the earth. Right now I haven't seen permaculture move outside of the "prepper," "neo-hippy," and "wealthy white crunchy mom" circles, and that's saddening for me.

With all that said, I do understand it's still very much experimental, and a philosophy not a method. However, can we test this philosophy on a social scale? Is it economically viable for the average person, or will it always stay a fringe niche? Can it provide income and a way out of poverty for millions of young people and minorities? Can it break up the industrialized acres of monoculture farms and provide affordable food for the poor, while bringing people, culture, and wealth into rural America? These are the questions I'm concerned with.

P.S. I haven't read Toby's new book "The Permaculture City" yet, so forgive me if these questions have been directly addressed by Mr. Hemenway.
 
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Jonathan Rivera wrote:There are movements in Detroit that show real promise, but most sustainable movements are happening in wealthy white cities, where they can spend the extra time and money on gardening.

Speaking from experience here, seeds are a MUCH better return on foodstamps than food, though gardening does require some [not necessarily a lot] or time.

Wish I had something to address your social change comments, but that is completely outside my depth so I'll have to leave it to those involved in such movements.
 
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I see permaculture as more of a way of thinking and living rather than an exact science. Reduce, recycle, reuse. Try and bring together the most outputs closest to those that need those as inputs thereby reducing your workload and waste. What happens if we measure permaculture not in tons of food produced per acre, but rather as tons of garbage not brought to landfills? As a family, we have reduced our garbage output from 15-20 bags every 2 weeks to 3-4 simply by switching from processed foods to homegrown and by composting uneaten food, etc. If I were interested in producing xxx tons of food per acre, I could easily factory farm my chickens, etc. It is a guaranteed way to make profits, but it's neither healthy, nutritious or best for the animals.

As long as you can produce what you need to consume and thrive, does making xxx more tons per acre/bird/animal to sell really make sense? What are the ecological costs to the Earth to produce that extra xxx tons? What is our generations disposable way of thinking teaching our children and grandchildren? For that matter, what type of world will be leaving our children and grandchildren after we are gone? I am into permaculture to reduce my ecological footprint, improve the soil on my farm (which is pretty much the worst you can have), and teach my children how to live in the event that anything ever happens to our high tech way of life. I am not a huge doom sayer, but you simply can't keep squeezing water out of a sponge and expect there to be more water. At some point the sponge goes dry and when that happens, those that have learned how to refill the sponge will continue to thrive. In 1950, the worlds population was 2.5B some projections put the population at 10B in 2050. That is only a 100 year time frame. What happens in another 100 years when it's 40B or more?

In answer to the OPs question, yes, I practice permaculture. I don't follow EVERY single tenant as though it were law and if I had to, I couldn't provide a metric for before and after showing how much improvement I have seen, but I can say from personal experience that I have seen a reduction in both waste and work with each of the tenants that I follow. That to me is a win.

Please don't view paragraph 2 as a flame or trolling. It is simply what I think about when I approach permaculture.
 
Jonathan Rivera
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Speaking from experience here, seeds are a MUCH better return on foodstamps than food



That's correct, but it's only an option if you have access to some land, or at least a sunny balcony and enough money to buy some potting soil and containers. If you have community gardens and education, these things can help urban communities thrive and escape poverty. In Detroit they are starting many urban gardening initiatives and are seeing great results. But once funding and "public" interest run out, and once urban land can make more money as a McDonalds than a farm, they usually go under. The 2008 documentary "The Garden" is a telling example of this (http://www.thegardenmovie.com).
 
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That film is really reminding me why I hate the concept of cities.
 
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Jonathan Rivera wrote:...and enough money to buy some potting soil and containers.



Speaking as a broke-ass rural gardener who doesn't get foodstamps, I'd like to point out that:

1) potting soil and garden containers are indeed ruinously expensive, if you buy them "new", but
2) they can both be foraged/scavenged/freecycled in both rural and urban environments.

I don't want to derail this thread, but I did want to interject that it's possible to garden on a small scale for free in almost any environment if you have a sunny place to put containers. The only variable is how much time and energy you can put into foraging materials. Lack of physical fitness or time to do the foraging would be the biggest limiter IMO.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jonathan Rivera wrote:J we often fail to directly address the problems that our society is facing, and how permaculture can create solutions.



Start some threads about it and I bet people will want to talk about it a lot, and offer solutions.

And of course, be the change you want to see.

Also: http://geofflawton.com/videos/community-gardens/

http://geofflawton.com/videos/urban-gardens-microspace/

http://geofflawton.com/videos/brooklyn-grange-rooftop-farm/
 
Jonathan Rivera
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:That film is really reminding me why I hate the concept of cities.



I think cities can be looked at as a different eco system, with different rules and connections than rural, or low population areas. I'd like to find a rural area with as much culture, variety, transfusion of ideas and knowledge as a city. The problem with cities, isn't the concept of a city, it's how the cities are designed. I think many permaculturalist would generally agree there. But yeah, there's a lot about cities that suck, but the cities are where the cultural and global change are going to happen.

With that said, I'm kind of derailing this post off topic. I'll probably start a thread of my own, and checkout a few in the general realm of Permaculture as social justice. As far as the economic viability of permaculture goes, I think it's an important question that needs to be addressed. I'm no capitalist by any means, I'm all for communities living off grid and having local sustainable towns, villages and cities, and dream of living in monetary free utopian society. But is permaculture a concept that is viable beyond the isolated homesteader or "crazy" farmer?

I believe it is, and I want to see it escape these stereotypes to be practiced all over the cities and the country sides, and help design our new infrastructure and mature our society.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jonathan Rivera wrote:I want to see it escape these stereotypes to be practiced all over the cities and the country sides, and help design our new infrastructure and mature our society.



I hope you'll post about your own efforts in overcoming these stereotypes.

Here are some places where people are talking about permaculture in cities:

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-134/urban

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-161/city-repair

And if you google permaculture cities, there seem to be a number of projects, and there's probably a lot more we don't hear about because the people don't have internet. Internet sites are going to tend to select for more affluent groups, I think, so can give an inaccurate view of the total population of people doing permaculture.
 
Jonathan Rivera
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I hope you'll post about your own efforts in overcoming these stereotypes.



I've been learning as much as I can and practicing on my plot in West MI. There's a ton more experience, living examples, and credentials I would need before I can attempt to become the permaculture evangelist to my community and my extended community. Eventually I'd love to get there, but it would be pointless until I can create a thriving example of permaculture that would show it's efficiency and superiority to other one dimensional growing systems. I'm not there quite yet, I've only been doing permaculture for 3 years now. But I'm starting to see some promising results.

I've attached some photos of where I'm currently at in my permaculture journey. It's small, but I'm learning a ton and hope to be able to get my PDC eventually and start community gardens and education in my town. I tried creating a permaculture "awareness" group with some local gardeners and anyone who was interested, but I wasn't quite experienced enough but have that turn into a success.
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2012 Front Yard: First Year Gardening. Sandy soil, not much success.
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2015 front yard
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jonathan Rivera wrote: I tried creating a permaculture "awareness" group with some local gardeners and anyone who was interested, but I wasn't quite experienced enough but have that turn into a success.



I tried that in the city near me but did not have the experience or (mostly) people skills, but fortunately someone came along who did and now it is a thriving thing with monthly classes - I just haven't managed to get back to visit the project (oh I hate going to town so much!) I hope you can get your PDC and do more outreach, but remember you don't need a PDC to teach people about permaculture, the certificate is only needed if you want to teach the PDC.

I love that you're working in your front yard - I think that is so important!
 
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Jonathan Rivera wrote:

I've been learning as much as I can and practicing on my plot in West MI. There's a ton more experience, living examples, and credentials I would need before I can attempt to become the permaculture evangelist to my community and my extended community. Eventually I'd love to get there, but it would be pointless until I can create a thriving example of permaculture that would show it's efficiency and superiority to other one dimensional growing systems. I'm not there quite yet, I've only been doing permaculture for 3 years now. But I'm starting to see some promising results.

I've attached some photos of where I'm currently at in my permaculture journey. It's small, but I'm learning a ton and hope to be able to get my PDC eventually and start community gardens and education in my town. I tried creating a permaculture "awareness" group with some local gardeners and anyone who was interested, but I wasn't quite experienced enough but have that turn into a success.



Don't be discouraged if you can't get people full scale into permaculture. I tend to focus on small parts of the process. Yes, getting one person to switch a lifestyle to a fully permaculture one would be a big achievement, but I think I can have just as much impact getting many people to change one or two destructive habits at a time. Those little steps add up overtime. Best of all, a lot of those little habits naturally lead to more habits. I'll bet you a permies pie slice that you can think of at least one positive change you've influence someone to, already. And yes, I'm serious, post a positive influence and I'll send you a pie slice. Then we'll both win because I like sending out pie.

Here's a hypothetical chain of effects from one lifestyle change. The person who starts eating organic to avoid chemicals in their foods may start gardening both to reduce costs and have better control of their foods. That also has added benefits that come from local produced food instead of trucking/training/boating/flying items from far away. In this area gardening also gets people outside in the summer, if they're in the summer heat more often they might find themselves more acclimated and use the AC less. I know I get sick if I go between the outside and a very cold AC frequently. If they are gardening in their front yards they interact more with their neighbors and form more community attachments. Who knows where the chain of effects that started when they changed their diet will actually end.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I sometimes wonder if the purpose of this kind of thread is not to find out if anyone is really doing permaculture, but to discourage anyone from doing permaculture at all. Because even the top names in permaculture are not perceived as "doing permaculture" there's not much hope someone like me can do it. I'm certainly not "living permaculture" - I don't make my living from permaculture, I get my power from the grid, I drive a car using gasoline, I buy a lot of food at the store, I live in a regular stick-built house, I take trash to the dump, etc etc. I might make it up to Level 2 on the Wheaton Eco Scale but don't see being able to get much beyond that. The top names in permaculture, who might actually be "doing permaculture" are people with tremendous personal energy and charisma; if they can't do the work themselves, they can get someone to do it for them. I don't have either energy or charisma. I wonder if this is an example of "the perfect is the enemy of the good," that I sometimes feel the standards of permaculture are so high I should just give up and say I'm "gardening" instead of "doing permaculture."



Anyone else ever get discouraged you might never be "doing permaculture?"

 
r ranson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Anyone else ever get discouraged you might never be "doing permaculture?"



I do all the time. There seem to be so many different flavours of permaculture, that it's hard to figure out if what I do is permaculture or not.

My main goal is to reduce my dependents on industrial lifestyle, and improve the health (the ability of it to support life) of the soil I work with. I'm using permaculture techniques to do so, but I am using a lot of historical techniques as well.

My great grandparents and the generations before were farm workers, or 'Boys' as they were called in that part of the UK - Boy being like a farm manager now, only more hands on. So my great grandfather was called Boy Cid as a title of respect. It wasn't until my grandfather's generation that industrial agriculture and better living through chemistry became the norm. As a boy... a young boy, not farm boy, my father use to help his grandparents and their parents on the farm. He witnessed first hand the pre-industrial methods of farming and how successful they were. I use this as great inspiration for my daily living. But would it be called 'permaculture'? I have no idea. Perennials and this idea of food forests, would be limited to the hedgerow. The soil would be tilled, but attention would be given to keep the soil healthy, and usually to increase fertility over time - as they did in that region for thousands of years. There was no mulch. There was little if any companion planting. Green manure, ground cover... all that modern permaculture stuff were not practiced. But it was agriculture. The food was grown in a sustainable way. It was permanent agriculture, but it doesn't look a thing like our modern idea of permaculture. I worry that because it doesn't look like modern permaculture, permies are often dismissive of the old ways of growing food. When done small scale, with care and attention, these methods worked well.

So part of the problem is defining permaculture. I don't like the strict definition of this is permaculture and that isn't. It puts me off, and I think it discourages others too. That's why I'm such a fan of the Wheaton Eco-Scale, and other ideas that embrace permaculture as a sliding scale.

Permaculture also needs to adapt to different regions. What one person says is permaculture may not work in other parts of the world... having a strict yes/no definition of what permaculture is, can't necessarily adapt to the changes needed. Having a sliding scale is far more adaptable and helps encourage people to improve their permaculture standing.
 
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You are being hard upon yourself Tyler!
Life is a journey it's not important that you get somewhere what's important is how you travel
I don't live on what I produce yet , I don't have a PDQ yet but slowly slowly I am getting there , each year I produce more , use less , love life more is that not a good thing?
As far as I aware there are no prizes or judges to decide who is doing Permaculture . No permiculture FIFA or governing body ..... Thank goodness

David
 
Tyler Ludens
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R Ranson wrote: That's why I'm such a fan of the Wheaton Eco-Scale, and other ideas that embrace permaculture as a sliding scale.



Have you gotten beyond Level 2 or 3? I have a hard time seeing how someone could without either choosing to be "poor" (turning off grid connections, quitting job, etc) or being quite wealthy (even by First World standards).
 
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