At its most basic, permaculture gardening is a sustainable approach to growing that looks to nature to provide the most appropriate solutions. By sustainable, we mean a system that can continue indefinitely. In the world of economics, a sustainable approach to spending doesn’t go beyond one’s means. In the same way, a sustainable approach to farming responds to the opportunities and limits of the surrounding environment. In the wake of the Green Revolution of the 1960s, a new revolution began with the simple concept of a “permaculture” approach to farming — one which could flourish and thrive indefinitely. Learn the philosophy behind this approach and how it could transform your growing practices — and your life!

It All Began with a Conversation

At the University of Tasmania in the 1970s, bio-geographer Bill Mollison and his student David Holmgren had a conversation that would shape the course of the sustainability movement. Coming from a love of the natural environment, the two men conversed with concern about recent developments in the industrial agriculture industry that relied heavily on non-renewable resources.

Taking the lead from what they had observed in nature, Mollison and Holmgren devised a framework of ethics, principles, and design areas that could be used to create truly sustainable agricultural systems: a permanent system of agriculture, a “permaculture.” The permaculture farming framework was described in their book Permaculture One (1978).

Three Foundational Ethics

Cupped hands holding soil with seedlings growing out of it.

At the heart of permaculture farming are three guiding ethics that underpin every other decision:

Earth Care

“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our existence and that of our children. Make it now!” — Bill Mollison. Deciding to do only that which benefits the earth (starting from the soil) is foundational to designing a sustainable system.

People Care

People who are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy are more likely to make responsible and thoughtful decisions. Permaculture gardening strengthens people, families, and communities through democratic, decentralized action.

Fair Share

All people around the world have the same rights to clean water, air, food, and shelter. As long as some people in the world have far too much and others have far too little, it will be impossible to live in peace. In addition to maintaining a focus on abundance, permaculture farming must keep a balance between taking and giving and a willingness to share the surplus.

The Permaculture Design Principles

Founded on these three ethics and inspired by the patterns observed in sustainable practices around the world, permaculture gardening offers 12 design principles that can be applied just as readily to tools, technology, land tenure, and health as they can to productive permaculture farming. The design principles are:

  • Observe and interact
  • Catch and store energy
  • Obtain a yield
  • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  • Use and value renewable resources and services
  • Produce no waste, minimize waste
  • Design from patterns down to details
  • Integrate rather than segregate
  • Use small and slow solutions
  • Understand, use, and value diversity
  • Use edges and value the marginal
  • Creatively use and respond to change

As you can see, these principles are readily applicable to a broad range of areas in life. You can read more about each of these principles in What is Permaculture? Part 2: Design Principles for A Sustainable Farm.

Retrofitting A System vs. Starting from Scratch

Whether you’re a seasoned grower or are just starting out, taking a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) to learn in-depth about permaculture farming will give you the confidence you need to succeed. Starting from scratch and retrofitting an existing farm both provide unique opportunities for permaculture. Let’s look at each one briefly here.

Starting from Scratch

If you’ve just purchased a parcel of land and are thinking about permaculture farming, you have a wonderful opportunity on your hands. By researching the local rainfall, wind patterns, soil composition, and topography, you will be able to prepare for the most extreme events based on data gathered since the beginning of climate change.

When you start with big picture, you will also be able to find the most appropriate sites for your orchards, gardens, reservoirs, and homesteads, and incorporate sustainable technologies right from the outset to catch and store your natural resources.

Retrofitting an Existing Site

In some ways, adapting an existing site using the design principles of permaculture farming can be easier than starting from scratch. You already have trees and dams to plant around and are intimately acquainted with the weather patterns around the site.

A good place to start could be to list all of your external inputs and waste products and analyze how you could start to live within your limits. This could mean the addition of small animals to generate your own manure or a reed system to treat your grey and black water on-site.

Fruit Growers Supply is Here For You

Permaculture gardening brings exciting possibilities that can help California face the challenges ahead. Just as we’ve been here for our growers for the last 100+ years, we are here to help you adapt to any aspects of permaculture farming that you’d like to implement.

Visit our full-service stores in Orange Cove, Woodlake, Riverside, Porterville, or Santa Paula for a chat or contact our customer service team to discover how Fruit Growers Supply Company can help you move into sustainable practices that really work!

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