Win a copy of Straw Bale Building Details this week in the Straw Bale House forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Anne Miller
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Burra Maluca
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Mike Barkley
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
  • Pearl Sutton

You can't feed even one person with permaculture  RSS feed

 
                                              
Posts: 500
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator


  Well to patent a seed variety you need like 2500 I think it is. so unless youve got connections in the field it isnt always worth it financially. Honestly that isnt my goal either. Im setting up to profit from future orchards that Im trialing now to see which trees do well here and dont have pest issues or disease.

    With the breeding, its simply practicality for my own farm and homestead, and helping others. the way the laws work if I gave seeds to someone here for instance tha I bred, no one else could patent it!!! Its instant public domain.

      the breeding in india was simply a VERY large project. That included all genetics they could gather. they were able to study in a lab exact traits of each plant, and the nutrition content. for back yard breeding  it might be a bit trickier to breed for nutrition, although in selecting varieties i do include those known to have good nutrition. But plant habits, plant traits, productivity or ease of harvest within diverging syste,s, and on and on we CAN breed for with great success.

      Obviously being smaller scale projects it can take longer to get results, but I know a few small scale breeders who did great things with as much space as I have.

      with open pollinated things anyone can breed without even focusing on it! you can include plants that have the traits you ultimately want, and just keep selecting over time. Will you get the results some lab can muster? not always of course, but within your system, within your methods.... you can do very well and move your plants in a direction that works better for your conditions without even thinking of it.

        with inbreeding plants you cn go with a landrace methodology. there may be minimal crossing and thats good when it happens, but it isnt the focus. this offers many advantages over selecting a single variety.

    so even without focusing to greatly on it, and even without truly understanding all aspects of breeding you CAN get very desirable results, and have a MUCH more adaptable crop, that can handle diverging environmental stresses.

    Of course a more precise project , OR one more passive that is much larger can have greater results, but its a discipline unto itself.

    we could also get folks within similar regions to have collective breeding projects!!! Id love to see all these happening, it would greatly propel what permaculture farming can become. even passively I assure you!!! Look up the name Tim Peters plant breeder..... Hes done some pretty dang interesting things, I was in contact with him for some time. he did MANY projects (not all) in this half passive way. He did most right in the woods around town. My point being that even folks who have a name in the field have done it this way, it is real. It doesnt HAVE to get complicated to have great results.
 
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dr_Temp wrote:
Silverseeds, I agree. If you are going to feed people with permaculture, I would think you would want to choose your plants. More seed development efforts can make a huge difference. Breeding is not something people walk out of school knowing (you know what I mean), and a lot of the breeders disagree on best methods. Using genetics research, you might be able to breed directly to your trait goal with good success. As table of genes vs traits is filled, better success.



And that is exactly what I was against, starting to utilize genetic manipulations vs actual plant breeding with heirloom stocks to continue the plant species.  (Seed saving and genetic changes that way I am not against, manipulation on a genome level I am)

GMO = devil's food
 
                                              
Posts: 500
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
And that is exactly what I was against, starting to utilize genetic manipulations vs actual plant breeding with heirloom stocks to continue the plant species.  (Seed saving and genetic changes that way I am not against, manipulation on a genome level I am)

GMO = devil's food



I agree. i cant stand that stuff. all the more reason it would be neat to see permies take on breeding in even passive ways. their plants slowly adapting with their systems, with the insects, with the local diseases, better able to be one step ahead while raising yields. This does happen anyway to some degree for any seed saver, but with a wider genetic base it can be much more profound especially if your lining up a few specific traits that fit better. Our efforts in this direction will be compounded.

sorry if i sound preachy.    i consider it the missing link in permaculture farming/gardening. As a whole the movement does well (or atleast some do) at understanding how plants work together, and how to address as many variables within an environment as possible to make growing plants or building fertility happen by method rather then inputs. Its my perspective that theres bugs to work out for certain eco systems perhaps but its clear permaculture farming is going to be the future. Even if industrial ag adapts to the changing world. its just a matter of how fast we get there. how fast we build that critical mass of knowledge that adapts the worlds view farming. breeding I believe is the missing link. you could think of it as localizing a plant. and whether your mindset is to build a forest with edibles, or to build something for profit, or anything else in between this still holds true. Many permies have seen the power of selection alone, saving seeds from their plants and adapting them to their area, well even passive breeding can multiply that by many factors....

even in the work of the "greats" of permaculture, they did amazing stuff, theres no doubts there. in most cases though just by observation and knowing some of the ranges of possibilities of a few types of plants, i saw they could of had much more profound results with everything else they did being the same. which would of meant their work would of stuck out to that many more people, and been taken that much more seriously.

 
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wish more permaculturists would discuss their yields more specifically.
 
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
312
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think that by the very nature of PC, it is difficult to quantify yields.
A farmer with 1,000 A of corn can easily quote bushels/acre figures.  A one acre food forest with a thousand edible species being constantly browsed by the steward, and the real owners (the wildlife) is hard to quantify.  As the eco system matures, yields will change.  Some species will increase, while others may dwindle due to competition, weather, or any other natural factor.  A good example might be bush clover (Lespedeza).  Your first few years may produce a lot of food for you, but once the deer and quail have found them, the food they provide may be limited to meat in the freezer.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The great thing about commodity farming is that they are really good at weighing food, and doing conversions. I think that permaculturists should be able to load their food into a scale and say that they got X pounds of sweet corn and Y pound of squash and used Z hours of labor and T tons of offsite compost.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 10808
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
541
cat chicken fiber arts fish forest garden greening the desert trees wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I tend to pick things as I need them, and forget to weigh them. 
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Emerson White wrote:
The great thing about commodity farming is that they are really good at weighing food, and doing conversions. I think that permaculturists should be able to load their food into a scale and say that they got X pounds of sweet corn and Y pound of squash and used Z hours of labor and T tons of offsite compost.



Do it with your own first, since it isn't the goal of some permaculturists & make a thread.  Isn't that why we are here?
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In my urban garden I have large well established trees (serious shade) and very little space, so my data wouldn't be worth much.
 
steward
Posts: 3445
Location: woodland, washington
106
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Emerson White wrote:
I wish more permaculturists would discuss their yields more specifically.



I would be, too.  it can get pretty complicated, though, if inputs aren't purchased in uniform bags or train cars as they are for industrial ag.  my inputs tend to be things like a truck load of horse litter from a neighbor or a pile of leaves.  my time commitment tends to be a few minutes here and a few minutes there.  even running a pickup truck across a scale and using a stopwatch in the garden wouldn't be terribly useful since the leaves don't have a known mineral content and a variable amount of garden time is spent daydreaming or napping.

weighing food ought to be easy enough, though, if a motivated person gets into the habit.  plenty of folks following one diet or another do it without any trouble.

Emerson White wrote:
In my urban garden I have large well established trees (serious shade) and very little space, so my data wouldn't be worth much.



might not be representative of more amenable conditions, but it would still be interesting to compare your yield with that of folks using different methods in conditions similar to yours.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've planted lots of fruit trees, I've gotten half of one cherry. I get about a pound of strawberries off of a 2'X4' patch, and ~100 pea pods (straight into my mouth) from a similarly sized patch. I get ~4# of rhubarb from 2 young plants. I get ~2# of currants and gooseberries, and ~15# of Raspberries from three beds about 2'X8'. Sometimes I get broccoli or cabbage that isn't eaten down to nubbins by the slugs. I also have some lawn, it's mostly clover because I don;t fertilize and rob the clippings for the compost pile, that and moss. The point being that I don't have a lot of productivity right now, the perenials are still rooting really.
 
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There are things that just aren't worth the trouble to grow, but you might want to eat. You can trade produce for them. Unless capitalism has broken down completely, I consider that having your permaculture raise all your food. I suspect most of you would find it a challenge to grow a banana. (we just plant a shoot, fertilize and wait - easiest thing in the world, in the tropics)

But, lots and lots and lots of people in the tropics only live by permaculture. Not formally, but they grow a forest of bananas, plantains, yucca, etc around their home, with chickens and a milk cow. Aside from picking up some rice and beans from the store (mainly because they like them) they don't spend much. Some grow a lot more too - mostly things very easy to grow.
 
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have really poor soil unsuited to agriculture.Inputs are quickly leached.Im more interested in comparing my food production to the surrounding area.If we must compare how about counting calories.Yield minus inputs and labor.And dont forget the embodied calories in the technology.I will gladly compare on my soil ,near my space.Beyond that,there are too many variables.
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
And that is exactly what I was against, starting to utilize genetic manipulations vs actual plant breeding with heirloom stocks to continue the plant species.  (Seed saving and genetic changes that way I am not against, manipulation on a genome level I am)

GMO = devil's food


Think you missed my point. Not talking about trans-genetic virus inserted DNA. Talking about using a database of traits available in different heirloom seeds, tied directly to what DNA triggers which traits if possible. If you know what traits are in each heirloom seed, hidden/suppressed along with dominant/revealed, you should know which ones to start with to work on your breeding. It could prevent you from false expectations and/or bringing in bad genes for your situation.

A database with which genes control which traits and which heirloom varieties contain which genes should assist in selecting the necessary seeds to accomplish the breeding goal.

Having knowledge is not in and of itself evil. Use it wisely.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Emerson White wrote:
I wish more permaculturists would discuss their yields more specifically.



I have every reason to believe that my citrus yields are equal to conventional methods, even though I am low input/permaculture. And the plants that I grow under and around the citrus? There is no way to compare that to traditional methods, as big commercial farmers do not grow or harvest anything in an area they devote to citrus. Permaculture wins!!

I don't count and weigh every fruit, but right now, there are still at least 300 grapefruit on one tree. The tree is healthy and loaded with fruit ... I doubt anyone who sees it would consider my methods inferior.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just think it would be nice to have a huge data set to say that permies using land of soil type XYZ and system ABC got X tons of this crop per acre and Y tons of that crop in the same acreage and had T hours of labor invested. If we are trying to get everyone to switch to permaculture it would really help to show that it's a sure bet given the fact that you have land of this quality that you can get the best yield per dollar invested with permaculture versus chemical bath ag. Nothing would quash the skepticism like data.
 
                                              
Posts: 500
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Emerson White wrote:
I just think it would be nice to have a huge data set to say that permies using land of soil type XYZ and system ABC got X tons of this crop per acre and Y tons of that crop in the same acreage and had T hours of labor invested. If we are trying to get everyone to switch to permaculture it would really help to show that it's a sure bet given the fact that you have land of this quality that you can get the best yield per dollar invested with permaculture versus chemical bath ag. Nothing would quash the skepticism like data.



Ive seen a few things about permie yields and agro forestry yields. also an peer reviewed article in nature a few years back related a specific poly culture for each of the major staples, and how overall their inputs were almost all onsite, yet yields higher overall, when you factored in they were getting i think it was 80 percent of the main crop of conventional systems, but had solid yields of others things as well....

I see what you guys are saying, and i feel those things will come in time. More and more folks are taking these concepts into more production style setups. Lots of permies today are growing for themselves or just using it to grow where they couldnt before, so its not exactly the easiest thing to measure that way at this point anyway....
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 10808
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
541
cat chicken fiber arts fish forest garden greening the desert trees wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Emerson White wrote:
Nothing would quash the skepticism like data.



100% agree.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Emerson White wrote:
In my urban garden I have large well established trees (serious shade) and very little space, so my data wouldn't be worth much.




That's a shame because even though you and I butt heads, I think any data helps... ..and I think you and your data count.  Look what data collection did for the 1/4 acre farmers!
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 10808
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
541
cat chicken fiber arts fish forest garden greening the desert trees wood heat
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Personally I think anyone working with serious shade and still producing food would be in a position to provide extremely useful information!  Too much shade is a very common problem for people in urban and suburban environments.  Designs for systems which will produce food under these conditions is something which is desperately needed!

 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Personally I think anyone working with serious shade and still producing food would be in a position to provide extremely useful information!  Too much shade is a very common problem for people in urban and suburban environments.  Designs for systems which will produce food under these conditions is something which is desperately needed!




One of the many things I am learning, hence my huckleberries under my apple trees with nasturtiums, onions and potatoes. 
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm still establishing, and am focused much more on learning academically about permaculture than producing.  Since I'm in shade and perennial heavy (and feathered pest heavy, damn) and way way way far north (61*35') my data isn't going to really stack up against a commodity farms data, not like a permaculture farms would.
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It would also be good to keep track of yields averages over decades along with minimums and maximums. A lot of yields I see are on ideal years, and they leave out years where there were harsh conditions that may have wiped them completely out.

From all that I have learned, I believe it sums up this way:

Modern Industrial Agriculture is nothing more than Hydroponics with Dead Soil as the growing medium. Crops do not tolerate adversity well.

Permaculture builds the soil and nutrients, making them easily available when needed. Plants can tolerate adversity better.

Modern Industrial Agriculture tends to grow Successive Monocultures. Chances of complete crop loss and complete financial loss are high when adversity strikes because you are all in and usually financed your expenses for the year.

Permaculture, the majority of the land is planted in polyculture. Rare to lose all of our crops/produce, so rare you would lose the farm from losing one crop, given you did not have to bet the farm.

Modern Industrial Agriculture focuses technology on creating solutions to issues they create, and kill everything and everyone (including you) in the process. (molested seeds, chemicals for fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, fruiting, flowering, ripening, irradiation, pasteurization, homogenization... They are raping and pillaging the farmer, turning all food into a commodity crap, killing the land and bankrupting the farmer at the same time. You have to give them credit for going a good job.

Permaculture focuses technology on better ways to reduce work and get better produce. It looks for multiple uses for everything. If I can not harvest something, livestock can.

So Modern Industrial Agriculture gives you the chance at all or none for the price of your soul and all the wealth of you have.
Permaculture gives you an opportunity to build multiple crop productions over time, reducing risk and saving souls and wealth.


Make sure you get good data and not skewed data. Something I liked about the numbers in the book 'Tree Crops,' Russell Smith used long term numbers with extremes on both ends to show what could be expected. Those are the types of numbers you are looking for, unless you can handle a complete crop loss year after year.

I'm sure you can add to the
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dr_Temp wrote:


From all that I have learned, I believe it sums up this way:

Modern Industrial Agriculture is nothing more than Hydroponics with Dead Soil as the growing medium. Crops do not tolerate adversity well.

Permaculture builds the soil and nutrients, making them easily available when needed. Plants can tolerate adversity better.

Modern Industrial Agriculture tends to grow Successive Monocultures. Chances of complete crop loss and complete financial loss are high when adversity strikes because you are all in and usually financed your expenses for the year.

Permaculture, the majority of the land is planted in polyculture. Rare to lose all of our crops/produce, so rare you would lose the farm from losing one crop, given you did not have to bet the farm.

Modern Industrial Agriculture focuses technology on creating solutions to issues they create, and kill everything and everyone (including you) in the process. (molested seeds, chemicals for fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, fruiting, flowering, ripening, irradiation, pasteurization, homogenization... They are raping and pillaging the farmer, turning all food into a commodity crap, killing the land and bankrupting the farmer at the same time. You have to give them credit for going a good job.

Permaculture focuses technology on better ways to reduce work and get better produce. It looks for multiple uses for everything. If I can not harvest something, livestock can.

So Modern Industrial Agriculture gives you the chance at all or none for the price of your soul and all the wealth of you have.
Permaculture gives you an opportunity to build multiple crop productions over time, reducing risk and saving souls and wealth.




Beautiful!!!
 
Posts: 517
Location: Eastern Kansas
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

A corn famer raises corn and buys wheat flour. A wheat farmer sells wheat and buys rice. A rice farmer.....but you get the idea!

I am going to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and say that he means that a permaculture farmer does not raise enough CALORIES to feed a person. This is the only thing that makes sense: I have never met a wheat farmer who raised rice and fish and everything he eats.

This makes me wonder: HOW many permaculturist does he know? Because, except for on-line, I have only known one permie who did and she did not consider herself to be a permaculturist. She simply saw a way to get her big field looking nice and earn a little at the same time.

Basically, they had 10 acres that she did NOT! want to mow but the character of the neighborhood demanded that she keep it looking nice. So, every spring she bought calves to eat the grass, added some corn and hay that she bought from neighbors to fatten them up, and sold them by the half in the fall.

But, nobody back then had heard pf permaculture. She just wanted her property to look nice and get her families meat for free: the sale of the other calves paid for hers.

Since there are more calories in 4 steers than her family could use, I would say that she was a permaculturist who did, indeed, feeed herself.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Most of the people who raise most of their own food raise less than half of the calories that they eat. Much of organic (and otherwise) gardening tends to focus on foods with very low caloric density.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Terri wrote:
A corn famer raises corn and buys wheat flour. A wheat farmer sells wheat and buys rice. A rice farmer.....but you get the idea!





hehehe 

The American corn farmer gets subsidies and ships it Canada so he can buy wheat and feed his family.  The American wheat farmer uses subsidies too and also starves his soil just like the corn farmer and again, ships his product all over so he can feed his family.

Then the Japanese rice farmer named Fukuoka came along and grew all his grains together with his rice, and fed himself, visitors, and sold enough for a profit.




 
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I work with permaculture principles but I don't grow food for calories. I don't grow potatoes or wheat. What for? I grow special stuff that is expensive in the shop, difficult to harvest and stuff I want to eat fresh for the taste. I don't care for calories. I get my bread cheap from the bakery and my potatoes from the supermarket.

I grow three different varieties of broccoli, four varieties of onions, from red color to pear form, two varieties of cucumbers, countless tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash, lettuce, tiny fast growing cauliflower heads, gigantic white and red celery. I grow six varieties of strawberries (wild ones included), 3 different red currants, black currants, white currants. I grow rhubarb and asparagus.

It would be a waste of space and a waste of labour for me to grow calorie dense food. Except garlic of course!
 
                            
Posts: 42
Location: Central Missouri
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Being of the homesteader ilk, my goal is to store as much food as possible, which means calories.  We just moved to the farm last year.  Our plans for this summer include building a root cellar and a cool pantry, to store all we can grow.

We ate every bit of the produce we grew in 400sq ft of beds, last year.  I plan to double the number of beds at the new place, so we have some for storage.

Besides potatoes and corn, I'll be experimenting with grain this year.  I'm also planting sunflowers and flax to test as an oil source.  When the nut trees start bearing, probably another decade or so, they will be an additional source of protein and oil.

I've converted to almost all open-pollinated seed, and hope to start saving my own seed this year.

The garden is currently in beds I'm creating using sheet mulch methods (the *only* way to bust sod, IMHO).  But the first plantings of our Forest Garden are in place, and I look forward to moving food production from the regular garden to the FG.
 
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
8
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great discussion, and very pertinent now.

I followed a link below someone's post, that linked to another site with David Holmgren, that led to a series of videos called A Farm for the Future, talking about some of the problems of farming in Britain. Very beautiful countryside, but the video really points out a lot of the challenges and changes that have to take place in a world without fossil fuels. It was interesting to see the journey the young farmer took as she explored the challenges and possibilities to change to a permaculture solution.

I think the bottom line is, even though our individual systems may not be where we want them to be, and there is a need for many more to come on board with regenerative and restorative kinds of systems. we can make a difference and help find a way to reduce our dependence on the current system, and keep sharing ideas wherever we can. Even if our yard or farm can't produce all our food, or feed a lot of people, whatever we can do is worthwhile, and can serve as examples and maybe provide some nursery stock to help others start their own system. Even if someone only grows salad greens and herbs, for example, that still means a little less must be trucked in from somewhere else.

I know my small yard doesn't grow all my veggies, but does produce most of the leafy greens we eat, plus lots to share with our chickens, who give us eggs. We do have to buy grain for them, but if we didn't have a garden at all, just grass like a lot of people, we would be spending a lot more on food, plus maybe gas, water, fertilizer, etc for a lawn, so every little bit does make a difference.
 
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As Permaculture wishes to make a permanent form of agriculture, I am of course growing not only most greens, but also grains, pulses and perennial sources of food and calories.

So far it takes me several years to learn how to become self-sufficient in food producing by using several of the permacultural principles, especially in a country like Iceland, where even conventional agriculture never got a hold!

This year I am going for rye, oats (outdoors), amaranth, quinoa and millet (indoors), pigeon peas, honey locust, mulberries, yams, groundnut, and many other types of pulses. Also seeds such as sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. So far I am just missing peanuts and sweet potatoes, as well as nut trees.

But the real deal is this: conventional farming damages the planet, and organic farming (despite being better) is not the most efficient way. I see permaculture as an improvement of organic farming in ways that it could become more sustainable, nature friendly and productive.

I think also that the biointensive method as well as the methods of Fukuoka and Hozler, also complement Permaculture.

Permaculture ought to focus in calorie farming, otherwise it can never serve as an alternative to conventional farming. Stuff like roots, nuts, cereals and pulses (perennials or not)
 
Posts: 283
Location: SW Michigan
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I disagree. Permaculture is farming the way it was done before chemicals and big business. You have to feed the land to live off the land. Now, the more intensive and better use of space is a great addition. What one does not realize is it take a community of farmers to eat. Some are better at this or that than others. Chickens, for example. Many people cant stand them around. But are great grain producers. The guy next to you likes his hogs and the lady down the road has ponds for fish and water needy crops. Mom likes her Blueberries and the one guy over there is good with roots and orchards. Many areas have very different soils in close prox to each other. Do not forget firewood. Does any of you understand how much wood it takes to heat and cook with? No. I do. I have to source this out. I am good with my crops and we trade.

Everyone forgets that farming or permaculture is also a social need and culture too. It is incredibly difficult for one person to grow only what they need. Most land will not support this idea. My family and friends have some of the best damn land ever created. I would be very hard pressed even with all the land and woods to live solely on it for myself and family.

This is why we have culture. Otherwise we are islands who will die off ignorant and lonely.

Permaculture is the basis of correct management of land. Just more intense and better than many of the "traditional practices" we have been taught.

Really guys and gals. What you all think is new and spiffy is the way my great grandparents were taught. Little is new under the sun. But many things can be improved by relearning and innovation. Yin and Yang.
 
dj niels
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Paulo, I am not arguing with your position. I don't "only" grow greens, they are under my fruit trees and shrubs that are just starting to produce. I only meant we each do what we can with our land/resources/skills, etc, as part of a community. Unfortunately, I am in an area that has few farmers or market gardeners. In fact, I am the only one I know in my town to try to grow food crops for market. Most of the "farms" in this region are actually cattle or sheep wandering the (BLM) range, picking out the grasses between the sagebrush. There are a few hayfields, in the nearby towns, where the animals are grazed in the winter. I see trucks with huge bales of hay going past my house all the time. So I don't have a lot of trade options, and am trying to grow as much as my land will support.

Based on my reading, permaculture is a lot different from traditional farming, because permies aim for polycultures and guilds of perennials, rather than plowing a field and planting row crops in a monoculture.

My grandfather was a farmer too, but he didn't have the benefit of knowing how to combine systems to balance out yields over a variety of perennial crops, and was very vulnerable to spring floods, drought, and other challenges when the traditional method of farming he grew up, of ditch-irrigated fields, did not work in a very wet, or very dry year, when the field turned to mud or to dust, depending on the particular year or season.

As Mark Shepard has shown, a lot of calories can be grown on tree systems. Toby Hemenway, in Gaia's garden, pointed out that an apple tree guild, or a honey locust guild, or other tree system can produce many more calories and pounds of food per acre than any field of grain and/or beans, with much less input. I am moving toward that model, though I have a long way to go to achieve it.

I am trying to grow potatoes and other root crops, which can be grown in mulched beds, but grains take a lot more space, for the amount of food, and need more inputs of management, too. And, as I have read many places, even though we like them, it is a lot harder for humans to digest grains than other kinds of food.

As has been said, I don't think the point of permaculture is to necessarily grow all our food, or all our calories, but to move away from the current agribiz solution of monoculture in huge fields, based on cheap oil, and to reduce the long-distance transportation of food. If my climate will grow potatoes and carrots and cabbage, etc, why should I import them from Idaho or Maine or California or South America? just as an example. If I can grow perennial onions and chives, which provide all my needs for onions for cooking or garnishing foods for 6 months of the year, that reduces the size of the onion field that must be grown somewhere else and shipped to me.

It doesn't take much space, or much time, to have a few plants of herbs to flavor meals, as another example. If everyone, or even 10-20% of people that owned or rented homes had at least a few edible crops in their flowerbeds, along with a fruit tree or two, and some fruiting shrubs, think how much the "need" for commercial ag farms would be reduced.

So, even if a Permaculture Garden doesn't totally feed anyone, the more of them there are, the more we all can move toward more land being used in more regenerative and restorative ways.
 
Posts: 258
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ludi, you asked for successful examples of permaculture and people have pointed out that traditional agriculture are not exactly perfectly successful ways of feeding people, without even touching on the water depletion, pollution , soil erosion , contributions of fossil fuels to greenhouse gases and that entire enslaught of feedbacks that have been results of conventional practices . So I offer there are millions examples of permaculture feeding people, through history even small garden plots , foraged patches of herbs and fruit trees planted here and there, naturalized nut trees have supplementally fed people and even if it is supplemental THAT is a success! In my own small way I managed to eat greens daily and pick a few herbs like cilantro and parsley all winter north of the 49th parallel and I saved my own seed from things which seems a damn sight more successful than anything monsanto has done for the world , that is successful permaculture no matter how small an example . Just as conventional agriculture feeds people collectively, so can permaculture . Time to set aside the arguments of whether it can feed us , as Rebecca Hoskins documentary Farm for the Future pointed out , can permaculture feed people , well perhaps we need to ask can conventional agriculture feed us moving into the future ?
 
gardener
Posts: 1270
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
264
books cat dog food preservation hugelkultur
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know several permaculture / farmers who make a living at it - farmer's market, selling seeds, eating well and feeding interns. Some of them also work off-farm, for example gardening for others, wildcrafting, or helping with specialized farm tasks such as grafting. Some are also certified organic producers for specialty markets in distant towns and states. They do use rows for some of the market produce, patchy interplanting for other things - in no case have I seen them grow an entire field of one single type of plant, as this is just asking for pests.

I've never felt that growing 100% of our own food was a worthy goal - unless you really like farming/gardening, or want to make a point.
Even hunter-gatherers had well-established trade networks to transport high-calorie commodities like oil, dried fish, and sometimes grains or alcohol. Often each group would cycle through several popular harvesting grounds in season, then meet up to swap staples for the winter. High-calorie foods can be locally abundant, and harvested by specialists for trade to folks with less access. Tubers and rhizomes are more popular for hand-harvesting than grains; grains work best in a dedicated or restricted environment, such as conventional agriculture or the wild rice / rice paddies where water helps suppress competing weeds.
I wonder if The Land Institute has started marketing their 'edible prairie granola' yet?

I also have seen some statistics on conventional agriculture in the USA - that it's currently using something like 10 calories of fossil fuel (nitro fertilizers + equipment fuel + transport) per calorie of food produced. I may be mis-remembering, but it's definitely in the red. And it's subsidized with tax dollars, too. By most definitions, US agriculture is currently an expensive national hobby, not a productive 'business'. Pretty scary given the likelihood of fuel (input) cost rising even as erosion and climate change make farming much harder to do without those inputs.
One of the places those subsidies go, in terms of both fossil fuel and cash, is almost directly into pollution: excess nitrogen wastes downstream, concentrated animal manures running off from feed lots and erosion of soils in tilled lands. Let alone direct pollution from fuel extraction. Which creates further non-calculated costs to productive environments like Gulf Coast fisheries. How many people were un-fed by the destruction of salmon runs when the Columbia dams went in, in order to create power and irrigation that is now credited with 'feeding' us wheat? (A lot of that wheat is for export, actually).

So if permaculture is a time-intensive hobby, in my experience it tolerates a lot lower inputs than conventional. Perennial gardening is like a little savings bank of current energy toward future food - when energy and money may be harder to come by. Reducing irrigation needs also reduces saltification, desertification, and erosion of soils, building rather than spending the soil bank. As a bonus, most people do it only to the level they enjoy, so if disaster never strikes it was still a pleasant hobby and a little light, healthful exercise.

Most Americans don't need to consume calories more efficiently; we need more of the nutrient-rich foods and fresh produce that are expensive by the pound.

What was the question again?

-Erica
 
Posts: 40
Location: Pablo, MT
6
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The aggregate increase in overall yields as an agricultural system vs. "per plant" yields designed around petro-chemical monocultures is the single largest reason we chose polyculture. We combined this with Hugelkulture, which as you are essentially "folding" the ground gives you substantial increases in grow-able surface area per acre, in the hopes of eventually exceeding 15/lbs sq. ft. Emphasis on the word "hope" as this is totally experimental for us. As an example we have 4000+ tomatoes and as many peppers with proper spacing in a 1.5 acre enclosure, hill culture saved us huge sums of money on everything from irrigation to deer fencing, etc. From an economic standpoint both polyculture and hugelkulture have a lot to offer those of us in the commercial market garden business - now we are in the process of attempting to chew the huge bite of permaculture we just took.

Another advantage of Hugelkulture we have noticed already is substantially higher soil temps much earlier in the season. Our raised beds are already approximately 20-30 degrees warmer, depending on sun exposure, than the surrounding soil which is a pretty huge deal for those of us in colder climates with short growing seasons. Our tomatillos are already flowering 3 weeks after transplant - this was not the case in our traditional row garden, with our first tomatillo blooms appearing in early July. 3 weeks earlier!

+1 for polyculture + hugelkulture!

Anonymous wrote:Here's one good reply to such arguments:
http://www.permaculture.com/node/141

The math is easy. With a polyculture, yields of 3-10 pounds of food per square foot are easy to come up with in most climates. For comparison, commercial agriculture in California , which is way inefficient, routinely runs about 1.5-2.5 pounds per square foot per year across a wide variety of crops.



For most people, permaculture will be one of many partial solutions to the complex problems we face.

The corn farmer doesn't eat just corn - he 'imports' from other producers. The idea that a permie has to grow 100% of their own food is not one that most permies subscribe to. The point is that the typical corn farmer produces a surplus (even if some overlook the destructive aspects of most corn monoculture, like soil erosion and depletion, pesticide use, etc).

It IS important that permaculture can be shown to produce a surplus. I am already doing that, and am certain that it is a worthwhile effort that will generate even larger surpluses in the future.

I started with citrus before I was really conscious of permaculture, and that is most mature and developed on my 1/2 acre suburban lot. My permaculture citrus trees are just as productive as the average citrus trees in Florida. My family has all the citrus we can eat from November to April, and we give a fair amount to friends. We also have a small amount of citrus year round from a calmondin orange and lemon tree. This is using a small fraction of our yard, with very little in the way of fertilizer, nothing in the way of chemical pest control, shipping costs, etc.  Swales are going in to reduce run off and put water down into the soil where the trees can use it for weeks or months. Steps are being taken to preserve and build the fertility of the soil.

Other plants are continually being added and they are starting to produce - not a huge surplus yet, but yields are increasing and I am early into the process. Have put in olives, mulberry, okinawan spinach, edible hibiscus, nopal, canna, tea, chaya, bananas (iffy in our location) figs, etc. etc. 

This year, a few volunteer pumpkin vines appeared and I decided to mow around them when they grew into the lawn. That gave me 80 pounds of seminole pumpkin, which can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Guess who has a surplus of pumpkin pie?  Next year, I will be planting saved pumpkin seeds for an understory crop and think I could easily see 1000 pounds of pumpkin with very little effort ... that is a serious surplus for a family of 4.

As soil fertility declines, as fuel for agriculture and transport becomes more expensive, as groundwater is depleted and potash and phosphate deposits are used up - we will be forced to abandon much of our plow based agriculture with feedlots and return to agroforestry and pastured grazing.  This future may not be permaculture per se, but will involve a move towards what permaculture is pointing to. 


 
Posts: 218
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To go back to the original thread, any good gardening can feed more than one person. However, one objection I have to permaculture threads on this site is, everybody is promoting permaculture as an alternative to agribusiness, to feed the masses, while they are buying machines just like agribusiness. I personally prefer the culture of native Americans, many of whom promote the idea that each person should take care of the earth and share with each other and the earth. If you think this is a pipe dream, it is not.
I grew up in a family half Austrian farmer and half Cherokee farmer. People only worked half days, like the Nearings, but everything got done.
I meet hillbillies everyday in my Grow Appalachia group who complain bitterly about how they were forced to work in the gardens. That's European/.white culture, not Austrian nor Indian culture. The Austrians and Cherokee are a lot alike in being gardening fanatics who love being outdoors and "working". I set tobacco and hoed corn, but I thought it was fun. In a couple hours, there would be a picnic feast in the back of the pickup truck. After we ate, we jumped in the creek to play. There was never a long grueling day. I think that's why people hate work.....wrong kind of upbringing.
The way you get your children to work is to give them something to look forwards to-- a picnic, a trip to a new creek, a new field to look for arrowheads in, a chance to play with other cousins who will work with you, a watermelon feast. Always, thee was a feast awaiting me after work. ALWAYS....as well as great breakfast and supper. And always, everybody helped out. My grandma, when she was in her 90s, collected eggs and ran the cows out of the yard. When she was in a wheelchair, she would sit there cutting up the food we ate. I personally think everybody should garden, that there should be no division of that type labor.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Greta,

Beautiful story.

I lived in Austria for a while and I miss the gardening there. The summers were warm and moist, just perfect for explosive growth.

In a way, I am much more enticed by the philosophy of native americans or south american tribes, than most of the Permaculture movement. I just realized recently that I try and try a lot of planning and then often I fail my goals (such as growing this guild or that yield), because nature has decided otherwise. I have learn to be humble and have no expectations. That i should aim at a way of gardening without much effort.

I also learnt that observing and mimicking after nature is better than not doing it. That's for me, the true value of Permaculture, as is the true value of huegelbeds, Fukuoka natural's farming or the native americans way of farming.

By the way: "Modern Industrial Agriculture is nothing more than Hydroponics with Dead Soil as the growing medium." Call it Dryponics or Deadponics!


 
Greta Fields
Posts: 218
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, I agree totally with that. I think observation is the best thing that Indians and permaculture people both teach. However, some permaculture people sound like they do not take time to observe the land. After having a farm, I would never just move to a place and rip it up for a permaculture plan, because I found out you can't possibly know what the land is like just from walking it one year.
They teach you to observe, but their students forget to practice observation.
Sepp Holzer stresses observation too.
I am in Appalachia, not Austria. However, my grandparents were from Karnten and Salzburg, Austria. They moved to America and settled in an area that reminds me of parts of Austria. I never went there myself, but it looks beautiful.
One every ten years, a certain flower will bloom that you never even knew was around, for example. In a really biodiverse place, the plants rotate, not just with each other, but according to years. So if you just study the land one year and dig it up, you may kill something you had no idea was there.
One year a certain hollow turned blue with Campanula flowers which never had any before, for ex. Another year, the whole mountain turned yellow with trout lilies I never knew were there. Some years, the 12-inch pasture roses bloom, but fail to bloom for years.
You may meet somebody I know in Portugal, in the permaculture circles. Her name is Tabitha, and she was planning to go there and work like Fukuoaka She came to visit me once, but did not like what I was doing, as I was not practicing pure enough Fukuoaka methods, I guess. [I was piling up weeds instead of doing slash and drop]
but I had a goal in mind...I was making a mound of weeds to plant corn on top. This seems to be the way the Cherokee grew corn when clearing a field. There are old pictures of Cherokee making corn mounds.
Yes, I agree, a person learns to be humble working with nature. I fail a lot trying to make things grow, but I can usually figure things out if I just study nature. I do hundreds of tiny "experiments" to figure out what works, because I got tired of doing gigantic projects, only to have them fail. Now I am thrilled if I get one little thing to work(: )
 
Thomas West
Posts: 40
Location: Pablo, MT
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Caveat: The following post is not meant to engender controversy or impugn the opinion, experience, or expertise of any individual community member. Rather we wanted to share our thought process that led us to make the choices that we did in establishing a sustainable farming system.
As previously articulated in another post understanding the land is a critical component of sustainable agriculture. So when we purchased our property and before we started construction we spent about a year wandering it with the old couple whose family has owned it continuously since it was homesteaded in the early 1900's. This gave us a big head start in understanding the land and integrating in permaculture as our preferred method of commercial agriculture.
A question we are often asked is "Why spend so much effort in growing the maximum amount of produce in the minimum amount of space when you have 30 acres to expand?".
There are several reasons:
We abut the largest road-less wilderness area in the US outside of Alaska - you could quite literately walk 2 miles out the back of our property and hike from there all the way through Canada to Alaska without ever encountering a road. This means we have an abundance of wildlife and we would like to preserve as much of our property as possible for agricultural systems that are more compatible than vegetable farming with a reconciliation ecology that provides a healthy habitat for both our domestic and the local wild animals. I guess you could say we feel that we have a responsibility to impact the earth to the smallest degree possible in the process of feeding ourselves and others.
We want to be water efficient as this resource is becoming increasingly scarce and is a major driver of conflict in many parts of the world. We have tried to reduce our water consumption in every decision we have made. We have a canal with clean and crystal clear Rocky Mountain water that runs through our property and costs a grand total of $75 a year to access for irrigation purposes in addition to several artesian springs on the property. Despite an abundance of water we feel that just because a resource is easily available and extremely cheap (basically free) does not mean you should be wasteful with it.
The world is urbanizing and its population is growing; essentially this means we have to either expand the amount of land under cultivation, perpetuating petrochemical based agriculture and destroying additional biodiversity, or transition to farming systems that are far more productive per acre than monoculture and incorporates aspects of reconciliation ecology to minimize the impact of human activity on global biodiversity. We chose a combination of Hugelkulture (increased surface area in the same square footage) and polyculture (the use of reconciliation ecology and companion planting to grow more crops in the same space) partially for these reasons.
There are strong economic arguments for the adoption of integrated permaculture techniques. As such a big driver for us is that through practicing intensive sustainable agriculture based on hill farming and polyculture principals we can produce more in less space, do not require the use or purchase of fertilizers or other petrochemical products, and substantially reduces our materials cost from an infrastructure and facilities standpint. This makes more capital and physical space room expansion and growth in our business in a much smaller physical space than would be otherwise possible. More productivity & less land = more profitability.
Other than a pickup truck, ATV, a water pump, and a hand held gas powered weed-eater/tiller we do not use machines in our farming operation. In fact we pretty much couldn't even if we wanted to due to the configuration of our garden - there are not many machines that are suited to the maintenance of an 8ft tall raised bed. Hill farming allows us to pack more crops in a smaller physical footprint which greatly reduces our need for machines as we are not driving back and forth across 10 acres all the time. We chose a method of agriculture that allows us to employ people rather than purchase machines.
In investigating the possibility of becoming a farmer it struck me as rather strange that techniques in use for less than 100 years are considered “traditional farming” while those of us practicing methods that are thousands of years old are considered “alternative farming systems”. As long as there are people on the planet that are incapable of and/or do not have the inclination to feed themselves Agribusiness will be around in some form. If we can help inch Big Ag towards sustainability through proving the profitability of “alternative farming” it seems to us to be a “win-win” for both the planet and the organisms that inhabit it, including farming. From a purely philosophical standpoint I would vastly prefer that profit motive is not the vehicle that inches us towards sustainability as a species, however if it’s the result that matters the incentive that pushes us towards that goal is of little importance.
One of us grew up on the reservation and was raised in the traditional Native American community. When we began contemplating becoming farmers we gravitated towards real traditions, versus the appearance of such, as we firmly believe that simply because knowledge that has been passed down for millennia has not yet been “scientifically validated” does not mean it is without value. Our ancestors fed themselves through agriculture for 10,000 years and we firmly believe that these methods, and the traditional knowledge in which they have their genesis, can be integrated into a successful model of sustainably feeding a growing population without destroying our planet in the process.



Greta Fields wrote:Yes, I agree totally with that. I think observation is the best thing that Indians and permaculture people both teach. However, some permaculture people sound like they do not take time to observe the land. After having a farm, I would never just move to a place and rip it up for a permaculture plan, because I found out you can't possibly know what the land is like just from walking it one year.
They teach you to observe, but their students forget to practice observation.
Sepp Holzer stresses observation too.
I am in Appalachia, not Austria. However, my grandparents were from Karnten and Salzburg, Austria. They moved to America and settled in an area that reminds me of parts of Austria. I never went there myself, but it looks beautiful.
One every ten years, a certain flower will bloom that you never even knew was around, for example. In a really biodiverse place, the plants rotate, not just with each other, but according to years. So if you just study the land one year and dig it up, you may kill something you had no idea was there.
One year a certain hollow turned blue with Campanula flowers which never had any before, for ex. Another year, the whole mountain turned yellow with trout lilies I never knew were there. Some years, the 12-inch pasture roses bloom, but fail to bloom for years.
You may meet somebody I know in Portugal, in the permaculture circles. Her name is Tabitha, and she was planning to go there and work like Fukuoaka She came to visit me once, but did not like what I was doing, as I was not practicing pure enough Fukuoaka methods, I guess. [I was piling up weeds instead of doing slash and drop]
but I had a goal in mind...I was making a mound of weeds to plant corn on top. This seems to be the way the Cherokee grew corn when clearing a field. There are old pictures of Cherokee making corn mounds.
Yes, I agree, a person learns to be humble working with nature. I fail a lot trying to make things grow, but I can usually figure things out if I just study nature. I do hundreds of tiny "experiments" to figure out what works, because I got tired of doing gigantic projects, only to have them fail. Now I am thrilled if I get one little thing to work(: )

 
Did Steve tell you that? Fuh - Steve. Just look at this tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!