Country Noosa – Rural Enterprise Project:
Sustainable farming: focus on permaculture
The following paper represents a very brief outline of only some of the ideas detailed in the PERMACULTURE DESIGNERS’ MANUAL by Bill Mollinson, as well as some writings by David Holmgren and Geoff Lawton. The PERMACULTURE DESIGNERS’ MANUAL is a very comprehensive book which covers aspects of designing and maintaining a cultivated ecology in any climate: principles of design, design methods, understanding patterns in nature, climatic factors, water, soils, earthworks, techniques and strategies in the different climatic types, aquaculture, and the social, legal and economic design of human settlement.
Permaculture is an ethics and values based movement initiated by 2 Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the late 1970’s. It is now practised world wide in nearly every country on earth.
“Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs a sustainable way.”
The Ethical Basis of Permaculture
- CARE OF THE EARTH: provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
- CARE OF PEOPLE: Provision for people to access those resources necessary to their existence.
- SETTING LIMITS TO POPULATION & CONSUMPTION: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.
The huge body of evidence of ecological disaster is appalling and frightening. Soil erosion, deforestation and pollution are amongst the most pressing.
We are in danger of perishing from our own stupidity and lack of personal responsibility to life. Our consumptive lifestyle has led us to the brink of annihilation.
Permaculture seeks to address these problems by partnering ecosystem interactions through intelligent ecological design. Farms must adopt a different accounting system, beyond a simple report of what is spent and earned. This system takes into account the amount of energy used in relation to what it produces, the effects on the environment, and the high quality social outputs like meaningful employment and quality food. As time passes, the system increases in value.
Growth at any cost is an outmoded and discredited concept. To accumulate wealth, power or land beyond one’s needs in a limited world is immoral. Our only possible decision is to withhold all support for destructive systems and to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. It is important to do it now.
Definition of Permaculture Design:
Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms.
12 Principles of Permaculture as defined by David Holmgren:
David Holmgren’s passion about the philosophical and conceptual foundations for sustainability which are highlighted in his book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability inspired the permacultureprinciples.com website where you can learn more about permaculture and sustainable living. Source: Posted on January 14, 2010 by justlists http://www.permacultureprinciples.com
Methods of Permaculture Design:
- Listing the characteristics of components
- Making connections between components
- Design by expanding on direct observation of a site
- DEDUCTION FROM NATURE
- Design by adopting lessons learnt from nature
- OPTIONS & DECISIONS
- Design as a selection of options or pathways based on decisions
- DATA OVERLAY
- Design by map overlay
- RANDOM ASSEMBLY
- Design by assessing the results of random assemblies
- FLOW DIAGRAMS
- Design for work places
- ZONE & SECTOR ANALYSIS
Zones can be visualised as a series of concentric circles, the innermost circle being the one visited most frequently. A real site will not conform neatly this pattern; it will be modified by access, slope, soils, wind patterns etc.
There are 6 zones:
- Zone 0 is typically the house or village,
- Zone 1 is where we place those components needing frequent visits, typically closely tended herb gardens, egg laying poultry, seedling nursery etc.
- Zone 2 is less intensively managed, typically main crop vegetable beds, ranging animals, small ponds, orchards etc.
- Zone 3 – commercial crop and animals for sale or barter. broad scale farming systems, large water bodies etc.
- Zone 4 – bordering on forests or wilderness, but managed for wild gathering – forest and fuel needs. large dams, hardy trees
- Zone 5 – natural unmanaged environment – occasional foraging, recreation or just let be.
Sectors are the wild elements of sun, light, wind, rain, wildfire and water flow, all coming from outside our system and flowing through it. Some need to be excluded and some invited in. We plan to regulate these factors to our advantage, in conjunction with placement of our zonal components.
The Concept of Guilds in Nature and Design
In the natural world, we can observe assemblies of plants or animals of different species which offer each other mutual benefits. We try to design guilds of plants and animals which will assist each other and to aid us in management.
Monocultures in conventional agriculture typically produce more of one crop, than polycultures. However, inputs in such monocultures are typically high (machinery, fuel, fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides etc.)
With polyclutures, the sum of all the different crops produced is typically higher and inputs are lower (fertiliser is provided by leguminous support species, green manure crops, animals etc. Pest control is provided by beneficial insects, birds, etc. which thrive in the intelligently designed polyculture. Weeds are suppressed by use of diverse cover crops and never exposing bare soil. Those weeds which emerge are composted and used as fertiliser. Complex, mature systems don’t need as much energy, and while they produce less, their output is more diverse, stable and efficient.
Succession: Evolution of a System
Nature shows us that a sequence of processes arise in the establishment on landscapes which have been devastated by processes such as basalt flows, ice planing, floods, burning or overgrazing.
Hardy pioneer species (including weeds such as thistles and lantana) are the first to establish themselves. These species stabilise water flow over the landscape. They provide mulch, shelter and improve soil quality for their successors (the longer term forest or tree crop species).
We can enable a cultivated system to reach a long-term stable state by carefully planning succession of plants and animals so that we receive short, medium and long term benefits. We can place most of the elements of such a succession in one planting. With this approach, remarkable changes can occur in as little as two or three years.
The Establishment and Maintenance of Systems
The first priority is to locate and cost the components of the design. We examine the site itself as a potential source (clay, rock, weeds, etc.). We can think of labour, skill, time, cash and site resources as interchangeable energies: what we lack in one we can exchange for another.
The planning stage is critical. We need to take the evolution in stages to break up the job into easily achieved parts, placing components that will be needed early in development ( access ways, shelter, nursery water supply, energy sources).
Impulsive sidetracks should avoided. It’s best to fully plan the site and its development, changing plans only if subsequent information forces us to do so.
Zones 1 and 2 are the first priorities; these support the household and save the most expense. Starting with a nucleus and expanding outwards is the most successful way to proceed.
For success, flexibility in management, acting on new information, continuing to observe and and being open and non discriminatory in our techniques is very important.
What has worked, new opportunities, constraints
Permaculture Noosa is an Incorporated Association formed to encourage and promote permaculture within the Noosa area of the Sunshine Coast of Australia. At our monthly meetings, members have stalls of produce and plants for sale. A seed saving bank is available to donate to and to access. There is a library for members to borrow books that relate to permaculture. Every month an interesting speaker with a particular expertise presents to the group. Often, a member presents a profile of a plant, its uses, how to grow and propagate it. The evening wraps up with supper and an opportunity to socialise with other members, the guest speakers and visitors.
Yandina Community Gardens Inc. (YCG) is a membership-based community group dedicated to providing education and practical experiences in Permaculture Design Principles. YCG and “The Blue House” is a volunteer-run learning environment for Permaculture gardening. It was established for the community to gain practical skills in growing their own food and also features an old Queensland weatherboard house which has been retrofitted to demonstrate practical solutions to changing your home to be more sustainable.
Maungaraeeda Farm is the home of the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast Inc., owned by Tom & Zaia Kendall: “We are on the road to self-sufficiency, not there yet by any means, but we are currently producing around 90% of our food needs and 100% of our cooking energy needs”.
Noosa Forest Retreat : Community living goals of Noosa Forest Retreat begin with a holistic or integral vision of life with a central value of treating the land and all life on it as sacred and utilising organic and permaculture farming to do so. With our organic, permaculture farming we are not only growing nutritious food, but we are creating a healthy community starting with the earth and for all creatures in and on the earth including us.
The development of permaculture co-founder David Holmgren’s home plot at Melliodora, Central Victoria, has been well documented.
Geoff Lawton’s Zaytuna Farm next to The Channon in northern NSW, Australia, is a 66-acre medium-farm scale example of permaculture implementation. It is the home base for the Permaculture Research Institute. Begun in 2001, the site is off-grid, and has multiple food forest systems, animal systems, kitchen garden and main crop areas, a large network of water-harvesting earthworks for passive hydration of the site, composting toilets, rocket stove powered showers, straw bale natural buildings, etc.
City Farm Perth
is an example of community permaculture in an inner suburb of Perth, Western Australia. The farm was constructed on a brownfield site in 1994, and is a focal point for permaculture education, as well as community music and art.
Northey Street City Farm
Founded in 1994, Northey Street City Farm has since created a vibrant green oasis in the heart of Brisbane. More than 1500 exotic and native fruit trees, bush food plants, shrubs and ground covers have been planted on the four hectare farm site since its inception. The farm has been developed for people to enjoy and participate in using the principles of permaculture. It is also intended to be a demonstration site where people of all ages can learn through practical, hands on experience
Kalangadoo Organic Orchard
is a small family business located in the Limestone Coast of South Australia. Chris and Michelle McColl have a background in Agricultural Science and around 30 years experience in horticulture from Central Australia to the Middle East to South Eastern Australia. They have come to appreciate that a holistic approach with biodiversity at every level of the orchard ecosystem is the way to build a resilient farm and business.
The Food Forest, Gawler River, South Australia
Developed by Annemarie and Graham Brookman and their children Tom and Nikki, the Food Forest is a permaculture farm and learning centre that demonstrates how an ordinary family, with a typical Australian income can grow its own food and create a productive and diverse landscape.
When the 15 hectare property was purchased in 1983, it was not much more than a bare barley paddock; only a few towering River Red Gums remained along the Gawler River from the time the Kaurna Aboriginal people camped in their shade and gathered food from the land. The heritage-listed homestead was built within the first few years of white settlement of South Australia and much of the fascinating history of the farm can be traced through the stone troughs at which Clydesdale horses drank and implements that once made life easier for the farmers of the day.
For a list of permaculture projects world wide, click on this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_permaculture_projects
There are limitless opportunities in the field of permaculture. It can be practised on the smallest site (e.g. on a balcony) to a site as large as can be imagined – a shire, region, state or country.
Most permaculture practised in Australia today is in suburban backyards and small farms. This is an extremely important area in permaculture. If practised widely enough, permaculture could rescue Australia from potential starvation and anarchy in the event of natural or man made catastrophes.
Man made catastrophes such as peak oil, and Australia’s critical lack of fuel oil reserves are much more likely than most people realise: Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security NRMA report NRMA Report Part 2
David Holmgren’s recently released book: Retrosurburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future, promotes the idea that Australian suburbs can be transformed to become productive and resilient into uncertain futures. It is an excellent resource.
Careers in Permaculture
Extracts from International Career Website:
A Look at a Growing Business Sector
“With the rising trend of being more eco friendly and choosing greener options in everyday life, it is no wonder that the permaculture business has seen significant growth over the past few years. Healthy living and clean eating have also added to the expansion of this particular business. Whether it is growing fruits and vegetables for family consumption or turning local producers into more economical systems, the permaculture business is certainly the way forward. If you have a green thumb and are looking for an avenue to make the most out of your talents, this business may be just for you.”
What kind of business would this be?
How you approach the business is completely up to you. With many different business options, it is no wonder there has been an increase in those interested in starting a permaculture business. Some will start a business with the outcome of reselling the fruits and vegetables – marketing them as being grown in a sustainable garden. Others have used this as a business opportunity to design gardens for others or even teach others how to create an economical garden. This type of role will have some interesting and varied opportunities as you will be required to design and change gardens based on their location and current status.
Do I need certification/licensing?
Although there are no formal qualifications or licences needed in order to start a business like this, it’s always a great idea to get some training in this field. There are courses available in permaculture and horticulture that can be of great use. These types of courses will help you to learn the basics of the field and give you the potential to provide a great service if you choose to start your own business. It’s also important to note that this kind of business can be physically demanding, so being physically fit and able is also a key requirement.
Is this an expensive business to start up?
Depending on what approach you take, it can be a relatively cheap business to start up. If you plan on teaching others permaculture or designing and building sustainable gardens, the biggest costs will be your tools of the trade, marketing and any start-up costs. However, if you’re looking at creating an urban farm, there may be a little more capital required to start this kind of venture. Building a greenhouse and season-extending structures will require capital, as well leasing land, paying water rates and purchasing basic farming tools. It’s important to understand that because there are quite a few avenues to go down within the permaculture business, there are plenty of opportunities available, both now and in the future.
What other benefits are there to starting a business in permaculture?
There are plenty of benefits of this kind of business, both to yourself and those you serve. Permaculture businesses often work together in order to broaden the awareness of the field and how it can benefit people and the environment. You will likely find other permaculture business owners will want to help you on your venture and vice-versa. When working in this field, you will be helping people to understand how sustainable living has a huge positive impact on the environment and the land. This continues ethical and sustainable practises and reinvests into the local area, the environment and the people of the local area. Doing good work for others, the community and the environment can be a rare trait to find in many jobs, so you will likely have one of the greatest feelings in this kind of role. Being able to do work that is helping the planet now and into the future will be very rewarding.
If you’re looking for a change of pace, want to work outdoors or perhaps you just want to try and make the world a better place, a step into the permaculture business may be just what you’re looking for.