What is Permaculture?

Permaculture, or Ecological Agriculture, (permanent agriculture) allows us to improve our relationship with the land by observing and imitating nature--integrating natural systems and methods. Permaculture ethics, intentions and principles are those of nature herself... and can be applied to the garden, the farm, and indeed any living system including human structures.

The Ethical Intention of Permaculture:

Care of Earth: Allowing provisions and resources for all life systems to continue and thrive.

Care of People: Allowing provisions or people to access those resources necessary for their existence.

Return the Surplus: Setting limits to consumption by governing our own needs so that we can set resources aside for earth and others.  

Roots of Permaculture Practice:
THOUGHTFUL AND PROTRACTED OBSERVATION : observation that takes place over an extended period of time with thoughtful intention to our interaction with elemental forces, patterns and cycles of the natural world.

START SMALL THEN EXPAND--Avoid unrecoverable regrettable major errors by testing and small scale implementation first. Implement in phases and with the understandings of your actions. being aware of scale and scope of a project. Remember that every action causes a reaction.

WHOLE SYSTEMS THINKING . Everything is connected to everything else in some way, shape or form. 

Permaculture Principles : 

WORK WITH NATURE rather than against natural elements, forces, processes, agencies and evolutions, so that we can assist rather than impede natural developments. Examples: use natural biological elements, gravity, use the sun and wind, encourage native species, etc.

PROBLEM = OPPORTUNITY --Everything works both ways. It is only how we look at things that makes them advantageous or not. Everything can be a positive resource. Within each problem, are the seeds of opportunity.

LEAST CHANGE FOR THE GREATEST EFFECT Make work a source and not a sink of your energy. leverage energies for the most positive effect. Every element is placed for energy efficiency.

RELINQUISHING POWER --The role of beneficial authority is to return function and responsibility to life and people.

RELATIVE LOCATION in the placement of elements: interconnectedness is the key to good design.

FUNCTIONAL DESIGN: EACH ELEMENT PERFORMS MANY FUNCTIONS-- elements are carefully chosen and placed so that it performs as many functions as possible.

EACH IMPORTANT FUNCTION IS SUPPORTED BY MANY ELEMENTS--important basic needs such as water, food, energy and fire protection should be designed to be supported in two or more ways.

ENERGY CYCLING--Good design uses incoming natural energies with those generated on-site to ensure a complete energy cycle. Permaculture systems seek to stop the flow of nutrient and energy off the site and instead turn them into cycles so that for instance: laws of thermodynamics

SYSTEM STABILITY IS ACHIEVED THROUGH DIVERSITY--Diversity is related to stability. It is not, however, the number of diverse elements you can pack into a system, but rather the useful connections you can make between these elements.

ACCELERATE THE SUCCESSION OF EVOLUTION--Acceleration of natural processes to hasten the development of a sustainable, ecologically diverse, and abundant systems.   Each cycle is an opportunity for more abundance.

EDGE EFFECTS--Use natural patterns as the basis of design. In nature, the creation of greater edge provides us with a greater surface area, therefore giving us greater production, increased aspect, zone dividers and microclimates.  

INFORMATION AS A RESOURCE --Information is the critical potential resource. Bad information can result in poor design. Good information increases opportunity for good design.

THE YIELD OF THE SYSTEM IS THEORETICALLY UNLIMITED --The only limit on the number of possible uses of a resource within a system is the limit of information and the imagination of the designer.

UNKNOWN GOOD BENEFIT --if we start with good ethical intention, other good things follow. 

Credit: Above based upon a Permaculture Document compiled by Benjamin Fahrer