Campus Sustainability Office


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Permaculture is a form of restoration agriculture, modeled after forests and natural plant succession. It's an ecologically minded design system that was co-created in the late 1970's by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia. Permaculture (permanent culture) is also a philosophical way of viewing the world, similar in scope and thinking to that of sustainability, that seeks to maintain permanent human society by mimicking perennial food systems from nature. This biomimicry design process strives for increased biodiversity, biomass, and ever increasing outputs in terms of food, fuel, and fiber, all while creating healthy living soil. These systems require consistently fewer inputs over time as they mature and grow, unlike annual crops that require high inputs every year.

(Ben Falk from Whole System Designs discussing permaculture on Teal Farm 5 years after being established):


Permaculture maintains living systems and seeks to manipulate nature to benefit both human and other biotic systems that exist on the land. For example, by planting nitrogen fixing trees or shrubs like Hippophae (sea buckthorn), dynamically accumulating perennial herbs and ground covers such as Symphytum Officinale (comfrey) in a mixed polyculture orchard of apples, pears, and other fruits, a permaculture farm can build soil, avoid adding minerals or nitrogen fertilizers, and maintain yields over time. The following video portrays this self fertilizing and low/no input methodology at an orchard in southern Quebec, Canada:

(Stefan Sobkowiak's permaculture fruit orchard at Miracle Farms):


While some ecosystems are naturally more brittle than others, today much of our agricultural systems would completely collapse without fossil fuel inputs to suppress weeds or pests and encourage growth. Typical corn, soy, and wheat farms exist on depleted and dead soils that are unable to grow crops without constant inputs. By tearing up the soil each year (sometimes many times) the precious, living top soil that took thousands of years to accumulate is washed away by rain and wind. Furthermore, what remains becomes compressed by the constant weight of heavy machinery. Permaculture recognizes the biodiversity and natural systems that coexist in nature to create thriving conditions for plant growth. Furthermore, it harnesses that knowledge through its ethics and 12 design principles to become stewards of the land, repairing damaged areas, and creating abundance in the process.

The permaculture movement believes in caring for the earth, caring for people, and sharing the surplus. It does not create negative externalities, and aims to increase resiliency and over health and well being for all living organisms.

Today, you learn permaculture through a 10-14 day permaculture design course (PDC). They range from several hundred dollars to $1900 or more depending on the teachers and quality of the experience. Often times work-trade opportunities exist whereby student interns can work, live, and eat at a farm and receive a class in exchange. Furthermore, many programs offer alternative building certificates, classes on medicinal herbs and other alternative classes for sharing traditional knowledge and post-modern living techniques.

(Whole Systems Design Permaculture Design Course Promotion Video):


Useful Permaculture links:

Farms - Whole Systems DesignMilkwoodQuail SpringsD acresNew Forest Farm (Wisconsin), Ridgedale

Informational - PermiesPermaculture InstitutePermaculture PrinciplesPermaculture NewsMidwest Permaculture


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