Permaculture is a return to the seamless landscape of milk and honey.
With fingers in ecological design, engineering, regenerative, and environmental design, resource management, construction, self willed habitats, and agricultural systems, the significance of permaculture feels inaccessibly arcane. It models the growing of food plants, that’s agriculture, after natural systems and the methods of indigenous peoples rather than our current unsustainable European model.
The European model clears the land of every indigenous plant and replaces them with a single, usually non native ‘crop’ plant. The planting of a single plant or ‘monoculture’ has no biodiversity and is the opposite of permaculture. The soil is turned and tilled annually then left exposed. Crops are constantly planted, harvested, and replanted. This model destroys the ability of the soil to maintain its own fertility and leaves it susceptible to blowing or washing away. While there will always be a place for conventional agriculture, it is resource intensive and inpermanent.
Still sounds convoluted, right? It's actually quite simple. Permaculture is just a contraction of permanent agriculture.
Permaculture is permanent and uses fewer resources. It uses perennial plants that do not need to be constantly replanted and situates them alongside other plants as they might have existed in natural landscapes. Permaculture is simply the planting of food source plants in a naturalized way so that every year there is a bountiful harvest. It is regenerative by returning agriculture to a model that resembles the way indigenous people managed the land.
Until recently it was falsely believed that indigenous people had little agriculture. Colonizing Europeans told themselves they were finding untouched landscapes that were theirs for the taking. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Americas were lands of ‘milk and honey’ because they were managed lands. The indigenous people promoted and tended the indigenous plants and animals they ate within the existing ecology of the landscape. The Natives were so successful at this seamless systemic approach that their efforts were completely invisible to the invading Europeans who saw only the exhaustless bounty of the land. The Europeans, in turn, exhausted the bounty and replaced it with row upon row of chemically “fertilized” soybeans and corn.
By incorporating permaculture into our gardens we can alleviate the pressure to completely rely on conventional agriculture.