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Permaculture - an idea who's time has come ... and gone???

 
Garry Hoddinott
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I read and re-read my countrymen's seminal designer manual just weeks after it was published. (Men's, because there were in fact 2 authors) I have extolled Permaculture for 4 decades I'm getting jaded. My perspective - have implemented a bit ... not so much. A bit of earth bag building .. not a hill of beans. So really I am a head man - thinking and talking, not such a doer. Nothing wrong with some self criticism before applying critical thinking to a broader issue.

I now feel Permaculture, as it has become TALKED about, and mostly in the minutia. It is missing the (intended) mark. Bill & David were 1960's / 70's lads. Their world was filled with the spirit of the age and although much of Permaculture is PERMANENT - ideas that have and will stand the test of time - some is a response to the time. Counter Culture / Hippy / New Age / Back to the Land perspectives were then current.

Permaculture has become a lot of BITS ..... the hugelkultur bit, the rocket stove bit, the banana circle bit. Too many to enumerate, BITS. Its cool for lifestylers , but is it sufficient to do much to feed the masses?

Beyond lifestyle is the real deal of production - here's where the Salatins, the Shepards, the Savorys and lots of others have contributed ... along Permaculture lines but sans the cutes that have become more the perceived Permaculture.

Let's get out of the unmanageable, unharvestable food forest and into pastoral silviculture, or multi-story alley cropping, or some of those other "feed the burgeoning hordes" approaches.

I'm not dissing anyone, just trying to excite some neurons, stimulate discussion, and perhaps steer the story a little.
 
Amedean Messan
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........Its cool for lifestylers , but is it sufficient to do much to feed the masses?........
........Let's get out of the unmanageable, unharvestable food forest and into pastoral silviculture, or multi-story alley cropping, or some of those other "feed the burgeoning hordes" approaches.......



Okay, I think, or at least I am interpreting (having difficulty) that you view permaculture (for a lack of better terms) as singular instead of plural. Some people want to feed the world, fine, others don't give a damn but are more interested in helping their immediate local interests - that's fine too! IMO you will not find consensus on a single system when there are different preferences.
 
Garry Hoddinott
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A useful contribution AM. Yes Permaculture is many things to many people. The edge I am sharpening here, is that we are in danger of trivialising a very broad set of principles as we reduce Permaculture to a series of cutes.

In the world of ideas, geoff lawton's broad scale projects sell well, Darren Doherty's RegenAg with a pretty strong PA Yeomans Water for Every farm influence also. Mark Shepard designs and implements a regenerative ag solution with mindfulnes of the third principle of Permaculture - Fair Share. There are more like this, and they stand on the shoulders of Mollison Holmgren and others.

While a herb spiral might looks cute, it ain't gonna change nobody's world. Ditto so many cutes. I hope Paul's LAB can usefully demonstrate permaculture application in more meaningful ways which will include community - something not always addressed by others, but i hope also in viable ag terms.

 
Dan Boone
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While a herb spiral might looks cute, it ain't gonna change nobody's world.


I'm not at all certain I agree. An abundance of fresh herbs ready to hand fills one's life with flavor, pleasure, better digestion, and improved comfort and health. If these aren't world-changing enough, they might yet inspire in some a world-changing passion or energy that otherwise would not have manifested.
 
David Livingston
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if permicultures time has gone what will replace it ?

David
 
Garry Hoddinott
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Oh, of course, while mere mortals grow herbs in pots, and enlightened folk grow in raised beds, Permies do it in ever decreasing circles called SPIRALS - devoting chapters to it no less. This underscores the notion that Permaculture pertains to the trivial.

It's frequently the inane example that attracts the comment not the meat, oops sorry, I mean germ of the concept.

I recently spent time at an excellent lesser known Center teaching permaculture in Thailand. The founder, and huge energy behind what is good and becoming great, bemoaned the fact that PDC attendees, youthful to excess, equated permaculture with no animals. They were astonished that beasts be kept on a 'permaculture" teaching premises. Not everyone has these limited notions of permaculture - but too many do. Permaculture's originators had a much broader horizon. It has been the modern emphasis on cute stuff that has distracted many from a broader understanding of the principles.

Bill and David spoke of minimising inputs and maximising outputs. Perhaps it is only when we see how quickly a system declines without inputs that we really know of our success or otherwise.


 
John Elliott
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Permaculture has yet to make its appearance on the stage, in prime time.

It always was, and has competed against Modern Industrial Corporatism. You know, the globalization that has spread across the planet converting the fairly self-reliant subsistence farmers into factory serfs. The system dedicated to growth and production, because more of both fattens the bottom line. Permaculture has done well to be heard as an alternative to Modern Industrial Corporatism, attracting a small, but loyal following to their small rehearsals know as permaculture design courses.

Permaculture will have to wait for the collapse of Modern Industrial Corporatism to have its day in the sun. But it won't have to wait long, because MIC has set factors in motion that are unsustainable. Peak oil, the collapse of ocean fisheries, population, global warming, the depletion of aquifers, the list is very long. If you want to hear it in full, search for videos of Guy McPherson on YouTube. Once MIC shatters into pieces, what will be left is to pick up those pieces and fashion something sustainable, and the only real option is permaculture.

It looked like 2012 would be the year of reckoning, what with the spike in food prices, the loss of Arctic Sea Ice, the drought in the midwest cutting food yields, but MIC was able to withstand it and keep on chugging. More consumption, more aquifer depletion, and more CO2 emissions. Last year was taken by many as a return to normal, what with the bumper crop of grain in the U.S., but I'm afraid it was the calm before the storm, and the next El Nino is going to be a more severe blow to the system.

The MIC system is brittle, with no robustness and adaptability to it. How could it have those attributes, they might cut into profits! Those attributes, ignored by MIC, are key features of permaculture and why it will eventually be adopted. Not just here and there, but by everyone who wants to eat. Once just-in-time delivery and inventory have collapsed, people won't have the choice of buying food trucked in from thousands of miles, it will all be local. They will have raised beds and herb spirals not because they are quirky hippies, but because they are hungry.

The opulent assortment of consumer goods made available by MIC has been fun, but it's coming to an end. It was a fun ride, but as with all carnival rides, the motion will stop and people will have to get off. Humanity will be able to keep small souvenirs of their rides, like electric appliances and smart phones, but they will have to figure out how to make them work on solar power and biomass. To do that, they will be adopting permaculture, it's just difficult to predict when.
 
Ben Stallings
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To quote Eddie Izzard, our options are "Cake? Or death?"

Permaculture is such a big topic, it can't get popularized without being misunderstood, diluted, and even co-opted by some people. Heck, that happened to "The Lorax," so it should be no surprise when that happens to a topic with some real meat to it.

But what other option is there? Anything that is not permanent culture will pass away. We as a species will either have to adopt a permanent culture (cake), or we choose death. The details of what that culture looks like, such as herb spirals and hügel beds, are completely negotiable.

This has happened before. When the First Nations / Native Americans came to North America, they were following big game across the land bridge. Their whole culture was based on hunting megafauna. When they killed off all the megafauna, their culture collapsed and they had to create a new one that was sustainable. Yes, there was a certain amount of burning forests down in the process, but by the time the Europeans arrived, evidence seems to indicate they had some of the most sustainable civilizations in the history of the world. Maybe less so in Central and South America. I don't know a lot about Australia, but my impression is that the aborigines had a similar story, which is why Mollison was so influenced by them.

So don't throw the baby out with the bath water. If you have a problem with people latching onto insignificant details and missing the message, then by all means, criticize them for that, don't denounce the message.
 
William Bronson
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Prediction of the end of status quo are notoriously unreliable.
Adoption of the useful parts of a science or philosophy, wilst discarding rest is fairly common.
I personally find herb spirals kinda woo woo, entirely intend to make nature my bitch, and count on the continued use of flush toilets as a way to make a living. I don't belive for one minute that what we do here or in real life will save or change the world. I also don't think theworld needs saving.
And yet I am here, soaking up and implementing the information and philosophys I find here, and putting them to my own uses.
My grandmother raised four boys on homegrown green beans.
My father is a zero processed fat vegan who loves veg(except for greenbeans) but has little affinity for gardening, epecially for food.
Me,I have wanted an edible lawn since I could cut grass (what a waste, tending a plant you cant eat!).
But I gleefully plant and eat gmos, mulch with cardnboard and wormed horse manure, catch rain in plastic pipes, pour concrete without regret (except for the cost!) , and my schemes for driving on charcoal have little to do with not burning fossil fuels and everything to do with saving money.
I don't love the earth, and she don't love me. But why kill the golden goose, be a symbiot, not a parasite, and live fat and happy.

So yeah, if it is good enough an idea, people will turn to it their hour of need/strong desire, cut off the cute and gnaw on the meat ofthe solution, right down to the bone of underlying philosophy.
If they are ravenous enough, said bones will be ccracked, the marrow sucked dry.
Necessity is a Mother, one I DO love....
 
Russell Olson
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I'm very new to all this. My perspective is I came upon permiculture as a small scale solution to my gardening problems.
Don't like to till? Mulch and cover crop.
Don't like to fertilize or collect compost in a heap? Build hugels, mulch, grow nitrogen fixers, add dynamic accumulators to chop and drop.
Don't like to weed? Grow polycultures that push out undesirables, eat the weeds, chop and drop for mulch.
Don't like to water? Collect in swales, ponds, mulch, etc etc.
It's all brilliant.

I feel like there is so much potential for global/national expansion of these ideas, but for the average consumer it's going to take small steps to get to a sustainable solution, and it's going to need to be helpful in the pocketbook, or in some other meaningful way that relates to food supply or an enriching factor.
My thoughts:
Local/organic food is growing in popularity in restaurants and kitchens all over the place. As food prices rise in the local walmart, a sustainable alternative becomes an option only when it can be as convenient and affordable(it's getting there), or when it can prove to be better tasting and healthier(all the recent food recalls help IMO)
This is where it starts, along with a growing trend of people starting their own gardens and becoming exposed to a better way of doing it than buying a massive tiller, building raised beds, watering a ton and adding fertilizer to their hybrid tomatoes etc etc.
That's where sites like this one help in educating a better way even if it's counter to the decades of traditional food growing we've seen.
From there you can find traction for adding water retention/recycling earthworks to everyday properties, using passive solar to heat, rocket stoves, you name it.

Eventually if the solutions save money/time/enrich health/enrich lifestyles people will trend towards an idea, until then small things like are often discussed here will need to continue to be developed and accepted as true alternative and PROVEN to the masses as a easier or better way of doing things.

I also fear there is a hardcore faction of folks that will not be patient enough with your average soccer mom to sell/convince her of permiculture's value and may end up either scaring her away with wild ideas(that may make be worthwhile but not "digestible" to a newbie). A permiculture purity test also scares me as information should be shared and spread around, not simply withheld and preached to the choir so to speak. There are many very good people who simply consume alot while trying to live a good life and raise their family. They're not evil for driving an SUV, living in a Mcmansion, or buying imported groceries from a superstore, they just haven't been educated on a better way or haven't had time or reason to do otherwise.

In the end, I'm very bullish on permiculture's eventual global impact and am personally continuing to learn, integrate ideas into my property, and slowly teach my friends and family all I can. A grassroots movement always starts with bits here and there.
Cheers!
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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We might have reached peak oil, but we are far away from peak fossil energy. And even if coal and natural gas and oil sands should go to an end: We have not even touched the gigantic reserves of methane ice in the bottom deposits of the oceans.
And alternative energy “sources” like solar panels and wind turbines are getting cheaper every day.
Nuclear power is, despite of Fukushima , experiencing a revivalism right now.
I am not sure whether we will ever reach peak cheap energy. Cheap at least for those, who consume it.

Worldwide most food still is produced by small, subsistence farmers. Permaculture can do a lot (and does a lot as far as I see) to improve their lives. And the better their lives, the better the chance they will not be pushed aside by MIC.

If we want to establish permaculture on broad acreage in areas, were MIC already is reality, we have to find solutions that help farmers to make more money with permaculture techniques than they make without.
Farmers are experiencing increasing input costs (machines, buildings, energy (more due to taxes than due to austerity), workforce etc.) while the prices for their produce have been almost stagnating for decades.
The common answer is: Get more cost effective by growing bigger.
Bot land is getting more expensive, too. And eventually you reach a size, where bigger does no longer make you more cost effective.

Now more and more farmers are thinking about how they can reduce their inputs costs. The chance for permaculture, perhaps.
In the cattle business are some people who want to cut the input to almost zero.
E.G. Jim Gerrisch “Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-Around Grazing” and Kit Pharo (Pharo Cattle Co.) who is most engaged in breeding exactly the cattle needed for such practices.
They might not have cool food forest, but they are kicking the fossil fuel and machine input and grain out of the cattle production and are using holistic grazing methods on species-rich pastures.
Is this not some kind of permaculture, too? They are imitating the effects of big herds on open prairies. They are doing the kind of livestock management, Allan Savory is campaigning for.

And there are interesting developments in row crop cultivation, too.
In Germany we have that guy Friedrich Wenz. A second generation organic farmer who is developing techniques somehow similar to what Fukuoka was doing on his rice fields, but by using machines.
His goals are to drive over his fields only two times a year. Once for seeding and once for harvesting. The fields have a green plant cover year around. They are never plowed. He is only grubbing the top 5 centimeters from time to time with a special grubber he developed. The grubber is not turning over the soil. It is used to cut the rootage to weaken the existing vegetal cover in order to give the new seed an advantage.
He is very successful and has yields almost comparable to his conventional neighbors.
And he his building up soil rapidly.

A speech of him, in German.
There might be English lectures of him somewhere on the internet, too.
Part 1: http://vimeo.com/18519509
Part 2: http://vimeo.com/18524635

You can search for Eco-Dyn or WecoDyn on youtube to see his machines at work.

As far as I know, he has sold some of his grubbers to South America, too. There might be some people around knowing him.
 
Renate Howard
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On another forum I was surprised at someone equating "Sustainable" with "No or limited off-farm inputs". And what came out of that was, that it's far easier to grow food for your own family with only your labor and land than to start growing things to sell. If you have too many chickens, enough for your family plus lots more, then you need to buy feed, as the most basic example.

I see nature as endlessly abundant, and the "problem" with a healthy system is overpopulation or overproduction. Maybe the ideal would be to set up a system to grow what we like best to eat, and if we do it well and get blessed with abundance, more than we can use, either in livestock offspring, or baby food plants, or food itself, then we find a market for those. I know we have some freeloaders here - too many pigs that went unsold, more roosters than we need, etc. that eliminating would reduce our work load. When the apples are ripe, there are more than I care to pick and wash and store. And once all the fruit shrubs I planted start producing we'll be swimming in fruit and nuts, more than we need after a few years.

One issue with Americans is that subsistence farming equals hard work and getting Stuff as a reward for it, more so than getting Cash and Stuff. It's kind of a non-monetary system. But for things like taxes, medical insurance, etc. you also need cash, granted. If you try to live the materialistic American Dream lifestyle, you need Lots of Cash, more than most farms can produce without cutting corners like industrial ag. does. Then you start losing your sustainability.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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For me, it's just the most practical & ethical way to improve my Sonoran Desert land. My neighbors have been keeping track of our results & are now openly talking about following our lead. They thought we were Looney in the beginning. I consider that an idea moving forward.
Even if my neighbors & I never reach the goal of being totally "Permanent", it will be a huge improvement for my area in every way.
I feel that modern homesteading using technology mixed with Permaculture technics will become huge in the deserts. I already see Baby Boomers buying inexpensive land here in AZ. looking to build their mini farms & ranches like the ones they grew up on/around...but better. Most of these people don't know what Permaculture is, but I bet they will discover it's technics very quickly because it's the only practical way to grow in the desert.
I could be all wet though.
 
Jen Shrock
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I can understand your focus on the "cutes", but I don't think that people that really embrace the principals only focus on one thing. Yes, it might be one area of research or interest, but it is only one of many, many things that each of us are interested in implementing into our own systems. Some of the "cutes" make sense for space challenged practioners. Not all can do this work on a grand scale. I think that there has to be solutions for both large and small instances. As each new "cute" is developed, it does have somewhat of a cult following for a while, but ultimately it becomes a singular cog in the entire wheel of permaculture production (at least for me anyways). Just like you don't want to grow monoculture, you don't want do design/develop in monoculture.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Permaculture has become a lot of BITS ..... the hugelkultur bit, the rocket stove bit, the banana circle bit. Too many to enumerate, BITS. Its cool for lifestylers , but is it sufficient to do much to feed the masses?


For starters, everything is bits. Corporate agriculture can be broken down into bits as well, but that doesn't take away the fact that it's a massive nasty beast to reckon with. Permaculture's strenght is in it's many bits, which are not only much more diverse, but are more adaptable than anything that corporate chemi/gmo/monocrop system can produce, particularly as depletion continues. What feeds the masses now is not sustainable, and cultures which are based on extraction/depletion collapse... it's a simple fact of history. So can permaculture feed the masses? I'll quote you again, Garry, and continue:
Let's get out of the unmanageable, unharvestable food forest and into pastoral silviculture, or multi-story alley cropping, or some of those other "feed the burgeoning hordes" approaches.


There is nothing that I can see about these that do not, or can not, follow permacultural principals. It's all in how those systems are developed and if they can be sustainable to the principles.

Yes Permaculture is many things to many people. The edge I am sharpening here, is that we are in danger of trivialising a very broad set of principles as we reduce Permaculture to a series of cutes.


This is an interesting argument, but from what I see in the previous quote I made is that you are possibly the one trivializing and focusing too much on the "cutes" while not understanding that the many of the broader principals are being practiced (and are being understood {if not practiced yet} by many in the main stream through the trickle of ideas, bad and good, like banking system bailouts, the "Local" trend), and that the greater societal changes will inevitably come with time as the mother of invention dangles her carrot, or swings it's ax, as more an more people begin to see that although it might be a chunk of work to put it in place that a hugulkulter saves time, water, fertilizer, while gaining solar exposure, drainage, micro-climates...

Permaculture can be done on large scale in multi-species food forested hedgerows mixed with alley cropped multi species Fukuoka and Savory inspired pastures. To some people, it might be a herbal hugul spiral of humanure powering a compost heater, or a rocket stove biochar processor that is also a pizza oven and a water heater, but to others who want to scale up a single idea or several in combo and make profits, that does not necessarily change it from being permaculture. What changes it is if the Earth is compromised, if humans are being adversely effective, or if enough of the surplus materials are not being returned to the system to make it self replicating or self enhancing.

As society begins to see the wage slave bank citizen model of insecurity for what it is, and begin to more and more embrace the local ideas, there is bound to be a great societal shift towards stronger communities, enhanced by intensive local non-mechanized horticultural forms that we are just beginning to clue into with these forums and the practice of the permaculture movement in the few decades that it has existed.

I believe that in diversity, and in many scales, that this can and will be implemented, and it is the only way to feed the masses in the end. Time will tell.


 
Shane McKee
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Oh bugger - does this mean we've hit Peak Permaculture?!
 
Garry Hoddinott
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I'm really tickled to see some great thinking! Which, indeed, was the objective.

I am heartened to see the posts that look forward to continuing cheap and abundant energy, nothing wrong with a little balance to the pessimism based on the apparent.

Here's my big HOWEVER .... Machine Age ag - monoculture ag, the kind of stuff that predominates the landscape is doing its job of churning out calories - we need the cals. But the environmental cost is unbearable. Permaculture (in all its bits) and its modern adaptations, DOES provide an answer, however it has, by and large, not got the acres. While our urban masses contemplate belly button fluff as a compost additive, our farmers are doing it tougher, feel forced to use narrow perspective single hit solutions, while all the time pouring petrochemical dollars in for a smaller and smaller return. If the land use problems are not totally apparent, try taking a small plane flight almost anywhere. Maybe you'll see what I saw whle traversing acres of wheat in Australia's hot dry heartland - large SNOW patches ... surely not No ... it was suburb sized areas of salt!

Permaculture principles address this, it was born in country like this - it emerged as a solution to deteriorated land. Just as Paul is fed up with woo-woo, I am concerned that Permaculture is consigned to the 'burbs and huppies (yuppy hippies). It is too valuable a set of principles to be dismissed. The increasingly small percentage of humanity providing the food for the masses do not deserve a "herb spiral" perception of permaculture.

In a way i know I am wrong - we HAVE cities, and their burbs. That's a lot of brains to infect and hands to do a little, and its neat that P'Cture can address their needs too.

Broad acre regenerative exponents, incorporating principles outlined by Mollison and Holmgren, are moving away from using Permaculture to describe their endeavours. Perhaps they are BRANDING their activities for recognition, or perhaps?, sadly, permaculture has become synonymous with woo-woo.
 
Shane McKee
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Hi Garry,
Paul & Geoff discuss this a bit in the interviews (which are awesome - hope we hear more, Paul!). You're right that this needs to hit broad scale Big Ag rather than herb-spiral suburbanites, but there are a couple of points to make here. 1. The herb spiral suburbanites (HSSs) will consume a lot less from Big Ag than their non-herb-spiral counterparts, so these are already reducing the demand (albeit slightly). 2. The HSSs are themselves a market to be targeted, which drives new approaches to Ag (arguably). 3. The key factor that will influence policy and behaviour is not going to be ethics & rainbows, but money. Paul is totally correct in that these principles (whatever we end up calling them - PC, regenerative agriculture, ecological rebalancing) should be allowed to MAKE MONEY for those people engaged in them. What will undoubtedly help in this regard are specific examples and scientific studies published in appropriate journals, and seeding proper debate (and that could be messy!).

I have to say that I am not particularly sympathetic to the view that there is a Big Ag conspiracy out to get the little guy or wreck the planet, although the behaviour of the system seems to gravitate towards that functional end point. Most people are essentially good, although most people are essentially dicks. We simplify, and in simplifying, come up with rubbish or short-term solutions. Broad Permaculture is pretty complex,and requires new modes of thinking; the inputs and outputs are not as well quantitated or understood as for simplistic monocrops (although we know that those are misunderstood by many agriculturalists also). It's a hard sell because Big Ag want us to produce the *same output* as currently, rather than looking at doing things differently. They're looking at per-acre-one-shot stats, rather than per-unit-of-energy-per-sustainable-acre. We need to open up that debate in the same way as is presently happening in Medicine - we're trying to look at the whole story, not just the surrogate endpoints for a single drug. (Read "The Patient Paradox" by Margaret McCartney for how that's being seen in medicine in UK). That said, there is no doubt that there are some unscrupulous people who are quite happy to make money and screw the future.

-Shane
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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@Shane:
I am of the same opinion. And I would go even further: The Big AG might be more flexible in there thinking and faster in introducing new methods than the majority of family business farmers are.
And every little step into the right direction is helpful. If a farmer changes from plowing to direct seeding into green manure this can not only increase his profit, it also helps building up soil. Far better than classic plowing and half year bare soil, although he is still doing monocropping and is still using herbicides etc.
Most conventional farmers are thinking about how to improve their soils and how to reduce erosion.
But it has to be profitable. Financially profitable. Short term financially profitable, especially on leased land.
And I would not overestimate the income per acre. Land is only one cost factor. Below the line it is about return on investment. Investment of both the entrepreneur has to put in: His time and his money.

If you want to convince a conservative investor, you have to proof your concept works and he will end up with a higher profit.
But we can break it down to bits, as every single little step into permaculture direction is helpful.
You might never be able to convince him to roll up his whole business in one rush.
But if you get him from plowing to direct seeding in the first step, you might be able to convince him to use a monocrop green manure in the second step. Than polyculture green manure might be the third step.
If you can show him how to profitably grow valuable timber on his steep slopes, he might plant them with trees to stop erosion.
And so on.
 
Brian Morsman
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Garry,
I'd argue as others have, that the "cutes" you talked about are simply small pieces of permaculture design that yuppies have cherry-picked because these things most easily translate directly from one place to another.
I don't think that's a sign that permaculture's time has gone, nor that it was any more applicable in the 60s and 70s. Yuppies and others firmly rooted in the reductionist, consumer-style paradigm will always
take the most portable parts of a complex system as if they were just items on a store shelf. That's inevitable when a holistic thought system such as permaculture begins to spread into a culture that views things
as separate entities instead of as connected elements.

This does not discourage me at all. Permaculture is an extremely adaptive system. Its core principles can go anywhere and do nearly anything. Just because some suburban folks think they are "doing permaculture"
by putting in some herb spiral or hugel bed does not mean that Permaculture is losing its way. It only means that ideas from permaculture are spreading and that, as we should expect, many are misunderstanding them.
We know that herb spirals, etc. are only manifestations of applied permaculture principles (harvesting energy, design from patterns to details, etc.), but many others will look at permaculture and only see it as a bunch of
things to do, techniques, as is true of organic gardening. Most people who see permaculture will first see it through the lens of their established paradigm. Changing this takes time. Many who misunderstood it (myself included)
now see it for what it is and are making changes for the better in the world because of that shift in viewpoint. Still many more others have not made this shift to understanding that the "cutes" only resemble gardening "techniques"
on a surface level.

Another point I'd like to make is that although many people who are practising permaculture are not feeding the world at present, larger scale implementations are developing and will continue to grow in size and number.
Changing how people garden can happen much more quickly than changing how people farm. Few people with gardens risk their livelihood in a shift from the status quo to permaculture design. Farmers who do this really do
perceive a risk to their livelihoods. That means a change in large-format farms will take longer.

I know that many are struggling with the notion that maybe permaculture has had its day. Heck, even Paul Wheaton talked a bit about having such thoughts in a recent podcast with Geoff Lawton. I submit that we fight against
such thoughts. I believe that this movement is actually gaining momentum, despite many people calling their actions "permaculture" when they are not. That will happen with any good thing as it spreads. I understand the desire
of some people to get rid of the word "permaculture" in favor of a new term, but I think that for consistency's sake we should continue to use the word. If we use another word, how will we choose one to gather around as a community?
How will we explain to people that "yes it sounds just like permaculture because it is..."? It has taken hold in Australia to a larger extent than here in the states for obvious reasons, but if we change the name, I believe that two bad things
will happen:
1) The movement in the US and other places will lose momentum due to confusion
2) Those who heard about it before the name change but did not fully understand it will never pick it up because it will look like "permaculture" was just a passing fad that disappeared after a few years.

I know this was a rant, but I hope it meant something to some of you. Keep up the good work.
 
Shane McKee
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Hi Manfred,
Great points - in some ways it's easier for the suburbanites to make those little steps because (on that scale) they're little, we don't have masses invested in them, if they don't work, hey - we've still had fun. Those are luxuries the farmers (big, medium, small Ag) can't necessarily afford - in terms of risk psychology. But yes - if we can break things down into incremental steps they can easily integrate with existing processes, that don't change Who They Are, then it's more likely that a/ we can get acceptance, and b/ build up a body of real world *data*. That can help make the case and promote the development of ancillary processes that can deliver the whole whack (to farmers and investors both). In other words, we need to make Permaculture EVOLUTIONARY as well as REVOLUTIONARY. My countryman Harry Ferguson is arguably the chap responsible for much of modern large scale Ag, with the invention of the modern agricultural tractor. I'd hate little Northern Ireland to be responsible for destroying the whole damn planet
-Shane
 
Shane McKee
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...alternatively, perhaps we can use the following terms:
Lawtonics
Wheatonics
Salatinification
die Holzerung
??
 
Charles Tarnard
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How can I, a man whose entire contribution to agriculture has been to eat wild blackberries when I was a child, contribute to the propagation of an idea when there is no proof that it works. I live in suburbia, on a small lot, and have grown nothing but grass in my first 13 years here. I now have become very interested in growing my diet in my yard, and am trying to use the things I learn here to my best advantage.

On my scale, there is nothing but the 'cutes,' but until the cutes prove fruitful, I can hardly push the idea that permaculture is a collection of successful theories. In addition, if the cutes do prove successful, and a few of my neighbors implement them as well, we've just insulated ourselves from any food shortages. It's a small step, but not insignificant.
 
Brian Morsman
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Charles Tarnard wrote:...there is no proof that it works. I live in suburbia, on a small lot, and have grown nothing but grass in my first 13 years here. I now have become very interested in growing my diet in my yard, and am trying to use the things I learn here to my best advantage.


There is plenty of proof that it works. There may not be a good example near where you live yet, but you can find many examples on the internet. There are hundreds of videos and many websites showing thriving permaculture installations. Many of those are suburban lots.

Charles Tarnard wrote:On my scale, there is nothing but the 'cutes,'


That may seem like the case, but even on a small scale, permaculture design application can yield more than just some herb spirals. Look deeper into urban permaculture (Geoff Lawton has a fantastic video on this, and yes, it has an herb spiral) and you will find some inspiring examples that may give you ideas about what you can do with your own property.

Charles Tarnard wrote:I can hardly push the idea that permaculture is a collection of successful theories.


You should be able to point to several successful examples online after some looking. That's what convinced me! I just went looking and I found a lot. Now I'm implementing what I'm learning about permaculture and it has worked well so far.
 
Charles Tarnard
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I think you misunderstand me. I'm doing much more than spirals, but it is all very small scale and could easily be described as cutes if broken down into individual parts

What good is proof of concept unless I can replicate it? I can go on and on about stuff I've seen, but if that is the best I can do why should anyone listen to me? I feel very strongly that gardening advice is something that spreads better with anecdotal evidence above academic evidence.

I understand and am on board with what I've read here, but until I can show results it's all theory and I'm not going to stand on a soapbox without more.
 
Garry Hoddinott
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While in any discussion some REACT, there are always those who RESPOND. I appreciate the considered reading of the OP and the subsequent musings of its author by Shane, Manfred, Brian, Charles, and others.

You guys have explored this idea with well crafted words, perhaps better enunciating my concern.

Getting a reaction was in the plan - "fire neurons" - and I was in no way dissing Permaculture, as any careful reading will expose. Its been a thoughtful discussion and there probably is not a lot to add in its furtherance.

Forums are for discussion - responding promulgates an idea explosion, reacting tends to reduce the quality of the discussion. Thanks for excellent responses
 
Dan Grubbs
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Perhaps what's missing to shift farmers from one form of ag to another is a bridge (has anybody seen the bridge?). I have suggested in other places that the work of The Land Institute to change the actual grain crops from annual to perennial is just that bridge that could link industrial monocropping to a different system, such as permaculture.

Just think if a farmer with his current mix of equipment and land distribution and funding cycle could plant a perennial wheat that performs just like the current annual form in its yield, but he only has to plant it once and because of its nature acts like the tall-grass prairie and all its benefits, and the farmer gets to harvest it annually. Can you imagine only making one harvesting pass per year yet never having to plant again or spread inputs? This wheat already exists (Kernza) and is already being used to make bread and beer at the artisinal levels. There are other grain crops being developed by The Land Institute now that will revolutionize industrial agriculture and from there, I suggest we can then move farmers from that position to a more positive less destructive form.

Kernza and other perennial grain crops that are being developed by The Land Institute will, in my opinion, be one bridge between industrial annual monocropping to a better form that we all may call permaculture.

Just an additional thought to the whole discussion.
 
John Pollard
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I thought the idea was to get more and more people headed away from the the large unsustainable entities thereby shrinking them until they're no longer............? You can't change things from the top down. We can all just do what we can in our situations. Change a few peoples mind about some things. ei. There's things that will be acceptable and some that won't. The ones that won't I don't flaunt and the ones that will go over I'll promote. I'm in the show-me state so just talking about things doesn't work too well here. Non traditional things will fly here IF, it's simple, cheaper or easier, works as good and doesn't look or stink like crap. I think things will get better as they get worse. If prices double again over the next decade or two, we'll be giving lots of garden tips. Hopefully things won't get too bad before the masses realize the world is bigger than their tiny world they live in. Thinking about that will make you old quick though.

I don't go for any one movement. Movements come and go. People are sick of someone trying to sell them on something. I will give credit for techniques. "It's a permaculture thing" etc. I'm just a regular guy trying some things. The word "Organic" in food production is just now getting acceptance and it's 100 years old. Age old really but in our society it started when chemical science got into ag and some people saw it being a bad direction to head in. It's gained popularity in spurts like anything will but some people still say, yeah whatever, about organic. Give them some maters and when they say how good they are tell them how you grew them but don't try to sell them organic, permaculture, hugelculture etc.

I would love to get 40, 80, 160 acres and turn it into Eden but I don't have the means. I could probably do the 40 acres but it would take decades and the change would be unnoticeable so I got 8 acres of woods and hope to have a nice looking, productive low input place to live and pass on to my son. In the process, I should be able to influence 20 or so people, some of them being kids, who are more open minded.



 
Dan Grubbs
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John Pollard wrote:I thought the idea was to get more and more people headed away from the the large unsustainable entities thereby shrinking them until they're no longer............? You can't change things from the top down.


I agree, but the last I checked, it's the people who have the 1,500 acres are the ones not willing to change due to the shift in investement needed. And, by the way, they're not selling their land to just anyone, and certainly no one who isn't paying $5,000 - $10,000 an acre for crop land and $3000 - $4000 for pasture here in the Midwest, even here in this Show Me State. As I suggest for the purpose of discussion is a bridge to get us from one to another. That's how I see how we'll "get more and more people headed away from large unsustainable" practices.

Just thinking.
 
Garry Hoddinott
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OK, one more post.

What is the third principle of permaculture - sharing surplus?? Right? ... or some such.

Well people unless we have surplus we are sharing diddly squat. If we are doing a self sufficiency thing on small acreages we are pretty much locking up otherwise "productive" farmland. Cities, regretfully are not going away. We need to use SOME mechanisms to produce food that constitute permanent agriculture.

If permaculture can't contribute to permanent real food production it is not going to make the difference I want it to, the difference it really needs to.

What I was highlighting was that real farmers are the ones churning out your real food. They often hate the game for what it has become, in fact, farmers in Australia have the highest suicide rate of any section of the nations workforce. If all the NOISE of permaculture is about mickey mouse stuff, they will and have turned off. Head turners among the food producers are Doherty, Saladin, Shepherd and Savory. None eschew permaculture but all have moved away from it to some extent. I could be cynical and say that by creating their own BRANDS they are shoring up their own enterprise, or perhaps they genuinely feel permaculture does not have the legs for the food production niche they are pursuing. HOWEVER, apart from emphasis on rotational grazing, which (I don't recall getting much of a hearing in Permaculture Designer's Manual), most everything alluded to by others is in the BOOK.

I know full well most permies readers are urban. Fine, and permie stuff is good for you. My point remains, is (QUESTION) the noise we are making it good for getting permaculture principles applied to regular farming? I say NO. Solution change the noise. HOW ... Create lots of URBAN FARMERS. SEE new thread - "BUY THE FARM YOU HATE"
 
Bill Crim
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Shane McKee wrote:Oh bugger - does this mean we've hit Peak Permaculture?!

I hope not, I've just found this place. I didn't get into MySpace before it was cool either.

I was recently reading the Anyone make money from permaculture yet? post and was moderately depressed. the answer, after 20+ years of permaculture appears to be "I hope to stop hemorrhaging money soon!" or "I reject the capitalist notions of money!" It's very disheartening. By my reading, it appears that too many people are trying to reject the existing system, instead of moving it incrementally forward. If Permaculture is a process, instead of a destination, then I don't see how it can ever be "Gone". I wish it were easier to realistically have scenarios presented to farmers, without ideological baggage, for methods of reducing their fertilizer use by 30% in a good permaculture direction. 100% is an idealogical goal, not a battle plan.

If we get 30% of apple farmers to also raise pigs, then permaculture wins; even if nobody knows the word permaculture.
 
Clarinda Medlin
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I guess there are many different ideas of what permaculture is. I've watched videos of people talking about plowing, planting, and harvesting their permaculture sights. huh? that sounds like the old fashion farming to me, but to them they think it's permaculture.

I got what little info I have from watching the Geoff Lawton videos. To me permaculture is the 300 year old garden or the 2000 year old garden. Nothing to plow or plant there. They are harvesting daily in a system that is permanent.

That's my goal and I hope this site will be here for a long time to cheer on those of us who are excited and need to keep our momentum moving.

 
Brian Morsman
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Garry Hoddinott wrote:....Head turners among the food producers are Doherty, Saladin, Shepherd and Savory. None eschew permaculture but all have moved away from it to some extent. I could be cynical and say that by creating their own BRANDS they are shoring up their own enterprise, or perhaps they genuinely feel permaculture does not have the legs for the food production niche they are pursuing.


Garry, I'm wondering if you could elaborate on how these farmers have somewhat moved away from permaculture in your estimation. I understand that they may use different terminology with their main audiences, but I have heard Mark Shepard use the term in his youtube presentation. As far as I can tell, these farmers are applying permaculture quite actively, making use of design to fit their particular situation. I have not seen evidence that they don't think permaculture has the legs for real production.

I am also wondering if your comments are showing something about your estimation of the long-term efficacy of permaculture. That's not a dig at you, but your comments are giving me the sense that you don't think that permaculture can do what many think it can, even when applied. I don't think down on people who feel permaculture is not all it's cracked up to be; I just wonder if maybe your frustrations with how permaculture has been applied by others is tied to a deeper frustration with the design science itself. Is this the case, or am I just looking too hard at your words?
 
Terri Matthews
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I agree: we need to work on more than food forests!

This spring I am attempting to put in a healthy stand of dutch clover into a new area. Then, I am going to plant vegetables through the clover.

Clover grows well in my lawn, and it only gets 8 inches tall and so I imagine that corn and other tall vegetables can get enough light. My goal is to have a garden that I do not have to weed, and the added fertility would be a bonus as vegetables use a lot of nitrogen and clover produces nitrogen.

Permaculture has been in te books for a long time. I think what we need now is to show our neighbors an easier way to do what they are already doing.
 
Garry Hoddinott
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Brian I’m going to quote myself – I know it’s like Jesus writing a gospel, please don’t crucify me!

The sentence before your quote says …If all the NOISE of permaculture is about mickeymouse stuff, they(the food producing farmers – the ACRES) will and have turned off.

I do state that all the aforementioned head turners Salatin Savory Shepard & Doherty – and there are more but these ones at least - are gaining traction. Why have they ALL chosen to present their ideas with a different name. Partly because they are emphasizing some fine, but important, difference. Only Doherty is to my knowledge a Permaculture practitioner teaching PDC’s along with some other smarts, notably PA Yeoman’s hydrology work… But all have chosen to use a different name. To me that indicates they are choosing to draw away from Permaculture. Wouldn't you if it was a bee in the ear of your audience.?

Who did TIME magazine call the world’s most innovative farmer – SALATIN. The runner up to the British Monarchy HRH Prince Charles singled out Alan Savory. They don’t oppose Permaculture and use it to gain a broader audience – eg Permaculture Voices – but they appear to have moved on.

I also said ….HOWEVER, apart from emphasis on rotational grazing, which (I don't recall getting much of a hearing in Permaculture Designer's Manual), most everything alluded to by others is in the BOOK.

So you see I do believe that these dudes and others are “standing on the shoulders of giants” – referring of course to Mollison and Holmgren. Permaculture is REALLY broad, ,so its hard to find something not encompassed.

The concern is that the p/c NOISE is not getting to the ears of the ACRES. A far dinkum farmer is going to change channels at the mention of herb spirals. The degradation of land via agriculture is the real bother. P/c has answers, but they are Blowing in the Wind it would seem.

Geoff Lawton is doing a fine job of keeping feet in all camps – that boy must be a centipede! And as Mollison’s anointed he is keeping the flame burning bright. So I’m not suggesting permaculture has been flushed down the loo, just that real traction in the acres is with others.

Peace and joy bro
 
kirk dillon
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OK Personally, I think there's some misunderstanding of permaculture in general. Permaculture is a way for the average person to grow their own (perennial) food in a small space. It is not a system to MAKE money it is a system to SAVE money. If done properly, there will be a surplus and this should be SHARED with others. It is not intended to supply the grocery store or feed the community. If you share with your neighbors or the local school or the homeless, you're increasing the culture in your area (permanent-culture as well as permanent agriculture). As you share the surplus, you should share the knowledge and therefore spread permaculture to more and more people.

Garry Hoddinott wrote:What is the third principle of permaculture - sharing surplus?? Right? ... or some such.

Well people unless we have surplus we are sharing diddly squat. If we are doing a self sufficiency thing on small acreages we are pretty much locking up otherwise "productive" farmland.
If we are doing the self sufficiency thing on small acreage or even city lots, we are pretty much un-locking un-used land and turning it into food production. Your quote suggests that if I have some small acreage, I should either leave it fallow or turn it over to big ag for them to farm. If everybody had a permaculture garden in there back yard and was self sufficient, we wouldn't need the big farmers and we'd have a much more resilient and diverse culture in general.
I also disagree with the notion that Joel Salatin and others have stepped away from permaculture. In my opinion Joel Salatin at least had some innovative ideas that are/ were similar to permaculture and used them to enhance the production of his existing system. Whether he came up with them by himself or got them from permaculture is irrelevant. Again in MY opinion, he never was a "permaculture" farmer. I'm pretty sure if you ask Bill Mollison, David Holmgren or Geoff Lawton they will all tell you that creating a perennial food forest is the basis of permaculture. Yes, there can be animals involved in that system but the perennial food forest is at it's core.
Having said all of that, I would love to see the average citizen as well as Big Ag both adopt permaculture. If there is a way to make money in permaculture I'm sure somebody will eventually figure it out. I am looking at trying that on a blank piece of land while at same time doing the self sufficiency thing on my land.
Permaculture is a multifaceted system and all the cute things together create a more diverse and robust system. Bill Mollison said that the production on a particular piece of land is only limited to the designers creativity and knowledge. If I know the basics but not all the small facets then my creativity is limited. The "cute" things taken out of the whole are just that, "cute". But put them into the multifaceted system and call them enhancements and they become much more important.
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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@Kirk:
The misunderstanding seems to be on your side. There are no such restrictions to permaculture.
Permaculture is a system of design.

It is like Geoff Lawton said it in Paul´s “permaculture part II” podcast:
"Permaculture is a system that is designed to provide all the needs of humanity in a way that benefits the environment."

It is OK to use Permaculture for making money. And it is OK to use Permaculture to produce food and other products in a large scale.

I know there are some people teaching permaculture and combining it with all kinds of restrictions and rules. But that is their opinion and their restrictions, and no global permaculture rules.
 
kirk dillon
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Please re-read my post
kirk dillon wrote:I would love to see the average citizen as well as Big Ag both adopt permaculture. If there is a way to make money in permaculture I'm sure somebody will eventually figure it out. I am looking at trying that on a blank piece of land
Permaculture can be adapted to anything even financing to some extent. I was just trying to state that it's basis is a food forest and it was created as a system for the average person to use. It doesn't matter if "all the needs of humanity" are met in back yards or on big farms.
I said that it is not a system to make money, what I should have said is that it was not originally designed to make money. You are correct that it can be adapted for "anything" large or small, profit or not.
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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@Kirk:
Sorry. I misunderstood you there. English is not my first language. I still have problems capturing the statement, sometimes.

But I do not think there has to be a forest.
Forest might even be the wrong word for most “food forests”. As most natural forests have a closed canopy. Whereas most food forests are more a savanna like thing, allowing far more light to reach the ground.

It is about imitating nature. When almost treeless prairies work for nature why should we not imitate prairies in appropriate areas? And aquaculture, were water is abundant. And scarce dry land vegetation, were we cannot collect enough water to create a forest.

I do not see any: “You have to build a forest”-rule. Or a “you have to build swales”-rule.
What I see is a giant toolkit from which I can choose what does work for my given situation. And if I am good or lucky or whatever I might be even be able to add a new tool to the kit eventually.
 
Carol Allen
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If you don't like carrots, don't put them in your soup. Just because you don't like carrots doesn't mean that all soup is bad.

It's the same with permaculture. If you can't see the advantages then you would have to be blind, but If you like parts of it, but not others, just adopt the ones you like, just like you make soup. Just don't be surprised when one permaculture action causes you to try another, because in permaculture everything should serve more than one purpose and they will start connecting as you see that they work.

I didn't join this site for a long time because each time I looked at the forums, it was more about criticizing than about providing information. If an individual doesn't understand a permaculture principle, then maybe they should ask questions of those who do, rather than becoming a critic and possibly giving out bad information or possible leading someone away from an idea that has been proven. From the name chosen for this site, I would assume it is to 'promote' permaculture, and provide a place for those who would like to learn more. I don't have a spiral, I don't have keyhole beds, I don't live in a group of people that hold hands and sing sons, but I don't care of someone else does and I would much rather they did that and fed themselves instead of living on welfare that the rest of us would have to pay far.

There is nothing wrong with questions and answers and good discussion, but it seems to me that if you just want to state everything you find wrong with permaculture, then you probably shouldn't be doing it on a permaculture site. Stepping down from my soapbox now.............
 
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