By Lisa Rayner
Permaculture is a new term for the old practice of ecological
design. It means both "permanent agriculture" and
"permanent culture." Permaculture involves working with
nature, arranging human gardens and communities into fully
functioning ecosystems. Permaculture embraces the ecological
patterns of whole, living ecocommunities.
The Permaculture Designer’s Manual, written by co- founder Bill
Mollison, describes permaculture as: "The conscious design and
maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems that have the
diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is
the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their
food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in
a sustainable way."
Permaculture farms and gardens create "food forests" of
fruit, nut and other useful trees with understory berry shrubs,
herbs, vegetables, beans, grains and vining plants. Meaningful
relationships are established between the different elements in a
garden system to allow the different species and inorganic elements
to meet each other’s needs naturally. As in wild ecosystems,
different life forms and inorganic elements cooperate to take care
of one another and recycle each other¹s wastes. The
"waste" of one becomes "food" for others.
The heart of permaculture is pattern. By observing the
relationship patterns between species and inorganic elements in
natural ecocommunities and then applying these patterns creatively
in our own gardens, we can create productive ecosystems that exist
and evolve as a forest does. Human gardeners set up permaculture
systems and observe them for feedback. Permaculture maximizes garden
productivity while minimizing human labor. Indigenous peoples with
successful long-term horticultural and agricultural systems have
grown food this way for thousands of years.
— Adapted from "Growing Food in the Southwest