Permaculture Introduction


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Why is permaculture a valuable alternative to conventional "factory" farming? Upon answering this question, this presentation highlights examples of a healthy permaculture system. This was used as a 30 minute "Intro to Permaculture" class taught to college engineers.

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  • MV - 20+ years environmental policy in public sector,Urban farm using permaculture principles, teach and write books on the subject of urban foraging (edible weeds). Is not “how to grow vegetables in permafrost…”Permaculture is a very BROAD subject that encompasses many disciplines.
  • But before I get into “what it is” let’s explore why we need it.For many, the lightbulb is just now flipping on that our present means of growing food is not sustainable.This report from the UN Commission on Trade and Development just came out in September. In it, over 60 experts from around the world are sounding the alarm that we urgently need to move agriculture to a more sustainable, natural and organic system. Let’s look at some of the pitfalls of our current model of getting food to the table.
  • Water availability is quite a growing concern. Of a population of over 7 billion, more than 1 billion lack access to potable water.  That’s 1 in 7 peopleSome of our experts are warning that water scarcity could cause major food shortages in the foreseeable future. Some anticipate up to 30% shortfalls in cereal production by 2030 – because of water scarcity. This is a loss equivalent to the entire grain crops of India and the United States combined.We’re going to see a microcosm of this effect real soon here with the serious drought conditions affecting California’s Central Valley – where so much of our food is grown.
  • To wit, here is NOAA’s latest drought projection. Not pretty
  • Other problems with our current model are related to monoculture. Pollinators, Disease prone,Not to mention, a loss of diversity in our crops. The UN says that over the last century, 75% of the world’s crop varieties have been lost. Now wheat, rice and corn) now account for 60% of our calories.This loss of diversity sets up a very vulnerable system. After the Irish Potato Famine, you would think we’d learned a few lessons.ErosionLoss of mychorhizae through constant tilling for the annuals we grow.
  • After the Dust Bowl, which was a result of continual deep plowing and a prolonged, you would think we would have learned a few lessons.
  • Yet another problem with our current modelMuch of US livestock is raised in industrial operations that produce many times their animals’ weight in manure. Immense lagoons used to store waste can degrade the surrounding air and water. US livestock produces perhaps 900 million tons of waste annually, about 3 tons of manure for each American. Acow can produce manure at a clip of about 14.6 tons annually. In one state alone, Iowa’s hogs produce at least 50 million tons of waste annually. That’s about 16 tons of manure for each of its state’s residents.That’s a lot of poop. And our current system is to store it centrally, which opens up the possibility of spills. Over the past decade, new controls are required for manure lagoons, but you can see they haven’t done a whole lot of good.
  • High on my list of things I’d like to change is the quantity of pesticides we use in modern agriculture.Areas of Central Washington where vast areas of soils exceed cleanup levels – they are technically hazardous waste sites. Most of the weeds we’re trying to eradicate are not only edible but are far more nutritious than the crops we’re trying to protect from them. 2,4-D soy and corn fast track approval by USDA.
  • Half a billion pounds a year – of ACTIVE INGREDIENT
  • I myself used to think, “these are just worst case scenarios put together by PETA to scare me out of eating meat.” But no, this is THE common practice. This is where most of our meat comes from (“Meet Your Meat”)
  • And to keep animals alive in those conditions, we must pump them with antibiotics and growth hormones. Right now, 80% of antibiotics in the US are used on factory farms, primarily to make animals grow faster and to compensate for filthy conditions. Every year, 2 million people contract antibiotic resistant infections.
  • And antibiotic-resistant or not, many of our most common illnesses are a result of closely confined animals.
  • CCD - Colony Collapse Disorder. Right now, we don’t know if it’s neonicitinoid pesticides, mono-sourced nectar/pollen (such as from almond trees), trucking hives all over the country… But given all these things, it’s kind of a wonder we have any bees at all.
  • Soil depletion. (A lot of this is the result of lost topsoil) – and use of chemical fertilizers.
  • Now take all these problems with modern agriculture and multiply them by 100 – and that may give you an idea of some of the challenges this system presents. Now that we’ve established our current system probably isn’t all that sustainable, Let’s take a look at permaculture as a workable alternative.
  • So back to this question…Why consider alternatives? I think we’ve answered it, yes? And I think the UN report is quite accurate in stating that the matter is urgent. We need to wake up!
  • Enter Permaculture.
  • Really all developing and developed countries. Permaculture is an alternative method that can produce more food using fewer resources. Small-scale farmers in Africa have used agroecology to more than double crop yields within 3 to 10 years of implementation, according to the UN report. Farmers also use permaculture to improve soil fertility, adapt to climate change, and reduce farming input costs.
  • Well, pretty much opposite of what we’ve been doing this past century. First of all, it’s very localized. We start with a comprehensive assessment of site-specific,natural conditions (rainfall, angle of sun, tree shading, native critters/plants, weather patterns, etc.Appropriate technology = going to be different in each locale.One key difference between permaculture and conventional farming is that we value and encourage biodiversity over monocultures. Providing for biodiversity greatly increases productivity while reducing the need for external inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation from off site.
  • And we wind up with permanent food-production systems that look something like this.These are a couple before and after shots, the first in SW U.S., the 2nd in India. You can see that it doesn’t take long…
  • Another example closer to home. This is 7-years later.
  • You’ll note that one of the key tenets of permaculture is the manner in which we manage water. I come from a stormwater management background, and I’m used to thinking about water in terms of treatment and flood control. But here we’re taking measures to keep water on site. Instead of building systems that divert water to a regional detention pond, we build swales and ponds to slow water flow and keep it on site.
  • In looking for ways to maximize production, permaculture often employs vertical planting and the use of companion plants. Vertical planting can be especially useful when establishing urban permaculture gardens. Companion planting is a means of encouraging symbiotic relationships between natural plant partners, such as …., for pest control, for water sharing, nitrogen fixing plants, etc. In my work with edible weeds, I now keep weeds in my garden as companion plants – such as legumes (vetch) for nitrogen fixing, dandelions and other plants with deep taproots for mining soil minerals to the top.
  • Here’s what vertical planting looks like on a larger scale. A food forest uses several tiers of plantings to maximize production of a given system. Beacon Hill Food Forest – national attention as one of the first public food forests. It’s still in the embryonic phases of growth, but when mature, will be a permanent system from which people can, free of charge, gather fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • I mentioned biomimicry, or patterning after nature. A great example of this is in the hugelkultur garden technique. On the left we have a forest nurse log. Water retention in rotting wood, mycelium (to help new plant roots to take up nutrients), mounding which expands surface area and acts as thermal mass (absorbing heat in the day and slowly discharging it during cooler temps at night)
  • Here’s another example of employing biomimicry. In a natural system, nothing goes to wastes, does it. Here we use rain, gray water and solar energy to grow greenhouse plants. We integrate fish which, visa visa their waste, generate fertilizer for the plants. The soil cleans the “wastewater” so that it can be recirculated into the aquaculture system. Nothing new, this type of system has been used in Asia for millennia. Actually, that’s a point worth emphasizing. Most of these techniques are not new. We are simply now recognizing them as inherently more efficient than some of our modern agriculture/monoculture habits.
  • I mentioned that permaculture looks beyond food to also include heat and shelter. Until quite recently really, most populations looked to small sticks, twigs and dung for fuel for cooking – and even heating. Coppicing is a means of managing trees to produce an ongoing supply of fuel. Typically on a 7 year cycle…
  • Similarly, pollarding is a manner of pruning that encourages the tree to produce a large crop of small fuel. I used to see these trees in city settings and think to myself “what an awful pruning job!” But that style of pruning is really a remnant of a time when cultures relied on it for fuel production.
  • With modern agriculture, we tend to separate animals from produce and in some ways, at least on the surface of things, this achieves some efficiencies. The downside of this separation though is that now you must store, treat and transport large volumes of animal waste. On the flip side of the coin, you must now import fertilizer to improve produce yields. Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to cycle animals in and out of growing areas? This is certainly closer to a natural system – another ‘closed loop’ or ‘self perpetuating’ system that maximizes efficiencies and yields.
  • Incorporating animals into the system is one of the best ways to improve soils. If you want to jump start that process, permaculture designers use something called sheet mulching.When I first started gardening, and for years, I patiently dug out small chunks of turf, shook as much topsoil from the roots as possible, and got rid of the grass. In so doing, I not only threw my back out, I removed some of the most valuable planting soil. Sheet mulching is a better way… - remember I said maximizing returns using the least amount of energy – well this is a great example of that. Laying down cardboard and covering it up with manure and straw is far easier than digging turf. Had I only known!!
  • Again, permaculture looks not only at food, but heat and shelter as well. You’ve heard about COB and strawbale construction. Here we have dirt bags. Also adobe (real adobe, not stick-built with stucco exterior.) Earthships… (Garbage Warrior)
  • As for heat… passive solar using thermal mass.Rocket stove to achieve a hot flame with a small amount of fuel.
  • Urban farming is where it’s at in my opinion. Just think if we could eliminate the need to transport food long distances…
  • Permaculture Introduction

    1. 1. Permaculture An Introduction
    2. 2. Why Consider Alternatives to Modern Agriculture?
    3. 3. Water Shortages
    4. 4. Water Shortages
    5. 5. Monocropping
    6. 6. Soil Erosion
    7. 7. Manure Lagoons
    8. 8. Pesticide Application & Herbicide-Resistant Weeds
    9. 9. Pesticide Use (2007) Active Ingredient Pounds in Millions Glyphosate (Roundup) 185 Atrazine 78 Metam sodium 55 Metolachlor-S 35 Acetochlor 33 2,4-D 29 Methyl bromide 15 Chloropicrin 11 Pendimethalin 9
    10. 10. Inhumane Treatment of Farm Animals
    11. 11. Antibiotics & Hormones
    12. 12. Increased Frequency and Severity of Disease Antibiotic Resistant Diseases Zoonotic Diseases Including: SARS Swine Flu, H1N1, H3N2 Avian Flu A-H5N1, H9N2 Foodborne Illnesses Campylobacter Salmonella Lysteriosis E. coli 0157:H7
    13. 13. Problems with Pollinators
    14. 14. Declining Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables
    15. 15. Peak Oil Climate Change
    16. 16. Why Consider Alternatives to Modern Agriculture?
    17. 17. What is Permaculture? Permaculture means "permanent culture” or "permanent agriculture" and is the conscious design and maintenance of cultivated ecosystems that have the diversity, stability, and resilience of a natural ecosystem. It’s a design/thinking methodology that seeks to provide for our physical needs, food, water, shelter, energy, et c., while doing so in an environmentally friendly, sustainable manner. It’s the harmonious integration of the landscape, people and appropriate technologies, providing food, shelter, energy and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. ~ Bill Mollison
    18. 18. What is Permaculture? Permaculture uses consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People their buildings and the ways in which they organize themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture. ~ David Holmgren
    19. 19. What is Permaculture? A SELF CONTAINED DESIGN SYSTEM for sustainable living, permaculture uses BIOMIMICRY principles to create the least impactful, most productive agriculture and human culture. Considerations: Food, water, heat, cooking, shelter, h uman relationships. ~ Melany Vorass Herrera
    20. 20. Where Do We Need It? India, Haiti, Australia East Africa, Cuba, Brazilian Rainforest UNITED STATES
    21. 21. What Does It Look Like?
    22. 22. What Does It Look Like? Maximize biodiversity Maximize water holding capacity Minimize external inputs Use nature as a guide
    23. 23. What Does It Look Like?
    24. 24. Examples: Water Storage, Delaying Runoff & Infiltration
    25. 25. Examples: Companion Plants • Maximize use of space, go vertical • Tiered plantings • Companion plants • Use recycled materials
    26. 26. Examples: Food Forest
    27. 27. Example: Hugelkultur
    28. 28. Edible Weed Hugelkultur
    29. 29. Examples: Closed Loop or ‘Self Contained’ Systems Think in Closed Loop Systems
    30. 30. Examples: Coppicing
    31. 31. Examples: Pollarding
    32. 32. Examples: Incorporating Animals
    33. 33. Examples: Building Soil, Preventing Erosion
    34. 34. Examples: Energy Efficient Structures
    35. 35. Examples: Heating & Cooking Efficiencies
    36. 36. Example: Minimizing Transportation
    37. 37. Permaculture Design Certification • • • • • • • • • • • • • Pattern observation and site analysis Natural building construction Renewable energy and appropriate technology Reading the land and natural cycles Rainwater harvesting and conservation Soil regeneration and land restoration Passive and active solar design Food forests, trees, and garden designe Greywater considerations and system design Business and financial permaculture Waste recycling and treatment Urban permaculture for sustainable cities ... and much, much more!
    38. 38. Free Online Course / PDC
    39. 39. Resources The One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, Toby Hemenway Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren