Gardening & Homesteading Green Living

Farm for the Future – What is Permaculture?

More than 90 percent of all the food grown in the U.S. is reliant on synthetic fertilizer made from petrochemicals. Without it there would be no food for most of us.

The soils of America’s industrial agriculture system are dead, compacted and depleted due to decades of abuse, so without petrochemical fertilizer, there’s just not enough nutrients for the crops to grow, and without plowing there is nothing to aerate the soil.

Even organic farms are dependent on oil to produce, process and ship their crops.

The fact is, we use ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every single (that’s right, just one!) calorie of food we produce. This way of life is fundamentally unsustainable and simply cannot continue.

Given that the days of cheap, easy oil are over, and we’re well past 350 ppm in atmospheric carbon, we simply cannot depend on fossil fuels to supply our food in the coming decades.

So, how can we live without them?

The answers are in nature. As Charles Darwin pointed out, earthworms have been plowing and aerating the soil for millions of years. And as for fertilizers, just look at how a forest flourishes by using the natural fertility created by billions of living microbes, fungi, plants and animals.

What is Permaculture?

Non-destructive, low-energy methods that mimic nature are elements of a wider system known as Permaculture, which challenges all the normal approaches to farming. Permaculture means “permanent agriculture,” and one of its central principles is that you work with the land, rather than against it.

According to

“Permaculture is an interdisciplinary earth science which encompasses many kinds of appropriate technologies and sustainable design methodologies, such as; renewable energy, water conservation, organic food production, ecological building techniques, micro-economics and more.

In a world of rapid ecological change & seemingly insurmountable social & environmental problems, Permaculture offers practical solutions using design principles drawn from the observation of natural systems. From individual homes to entire bio-regions, Permaculture has the potential to repair damaged landscapes, build capacity in communities and replace apathy with self empowerment.”

Permaculture techniques have brought forth food and fertility from barren deserts in Jordan, Israel, and India, and saved villages in Africa and Cambodia from starvation and dependence on foreign food aid.

I use Permaculture methods in my own garden to produce lots of food without machinery, outside inputs, or even a lot of work.

Permaculture practices are something everyone can learn.

The technology we need to thrive in a future without petroleum is not waiting to be discovered in some laboratory somewhere, it is right here working in communities around the world.

For a glimpse of the beautiful, sustainable farms for the future, watch the video above.

Learn More about Permaculture

Books About Permaculture

About the author

Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home – How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.


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  • These are great thoughts! I think my biggest concern is that we will not move towards more sustainable practices until it is too late. We live in a society now where everything is instant, and no one can wait. Healing the depleted soil would take some time. And I also think that people would not be willing to eat more seasonally so that these practices could take place. I hope for it, and we work on it on our own little nano-farm, but will the masses change?

  • Thank you for sharing all these information. I’m intrigued. I am not a farmer although I grew up amongst lots of wonderful farmers. I live on just a little less than an acre and I find the best results I get is when I think outside the norm. I’m visiting from the Farm Blog Hop.

  • yay for permaculture! great post, we all need to talk about permaculture and spread the word. Lately I’ve been writing about each of the 12 permaculture principles and how we use them on our farm.

  • Once you’ve seen a biodynamic, organic, pasture based farm in action, and taste the food it produces, you won’t want to go back to the industrial food chain! My daughter and I volunteer at such a local farm. We’ve seen how beneficial it is to rotate crops and chickens to different areas. No chemicals or fertilizers are needed, since the chickens take care of that! It’s a perfect example of the wonder of nature. I wish more people could see it all in action. For someone who used to be afraid of bugs, seeing them doing their work in the living, breathing soil really is an amazing sight! Magic really.

  • Ever since I first heard about Permaculture, I wanted to learn everything there is to know about it. Perhaps one of these days I’ll take a class somewhere about it.

    Thanks for joining in the Fight Back Fridays fun.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)

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