Ask 10 “Permies,” folks interested in Permaculture, and you’ll get 10 different definitions.
Some will tell you it’s an easier way of vegetable gardening. In fact, “most people enter Permaculture “through the garden gate” as Permaculture Designer and author Toby Hemenway used to say.
However, recently I’ve met people who had no idea that Permaculture had anything to do with gardening! For them, Permaculture was about forgotten building skills, meat farming, or primitive skills, sustainability, or even community organizing.
Permaculture is about Patterns
But one thing ALL these definitions have in common is PATTERNS. In this series, we’ll be exploring Permaculture by looking at some of these patterns. So, before we even attempt to define Permaculture, lets take a quick glance at a few of the biggest broadest Permaculture “patterns” and the various realms we might see them in.
We’ll also be pointing you towards some of the best Permaculture sites on the internet!
My suggestion is to skim this series, take in the patterns, let them speak to you and inspire you. Then double back and go into more depth on the topics that most inspire you. That is the standard Permaculture journey. Use this piece as a choose your own adventure. Let it be a roadmap in pictures and patterns.
Permaculture is About Meeting Needs
Our needs, the needs of the planet and its ecosystems. The needs of the future. So, Permaculture is applied to any of the systems we use to meet our needs. This is seen in the Permaculture Flower by, co-founder David Holmgren, from Holmgren’s site PermaculturePrinciples.com.
Permaculture can help us in the garden.
Permaculture is often found in the garden, making things easier, more productive, more profitable and more beautiful. This is a shot of our food gardens at Lillie House. We’ll be looking at other Permaculture gardens in this series, too.
Permaculture is about a healthier, safer, more just and sustainable food system for everyone.
It’s being used to change the concept of farming
This image is from Zaytuna Farm, one of the most famous Permaculture sites in the world.
Permaculture helps us build more livable, sustainable homes.
This image shows a form of natural, sustainable building from Strawbale Studio, a fantastic resource in Michigan, a place I have been lucky to take attend some classes.
It can give us more sustainable forms of energy
In this case, a rocket mass stove, by Ernie and Erica Eisner, can heat a home sustainably while emiting almost 0 carbon pollution!
It can help us take back control over our health
An image of homegrown medicines in our apothacary cabinet in Lillie House
Permaculture is being used to create more vibrant, healthy neighborhoods and communities.
This image is from the City Repair Project, which applies the patterns of healthy communities, such as the “village square” to bring people together. In this image, neighborhood residents used a street painting and gardens to make their neighborhood safer, slow down traffic, and build a community out of formerly issolated neighbors. Now, there is a Village Building Convergance to help people re-design their own neighborhoods.
Permaculture can heal degraded landscapes
Our site in 2012 and 2015.
And it can even heal whole communities, holistically, starting with their ecologies.
The story of the Loess Plateau is incredibly inspiring. This transformation helped stabilize the community, increased income by 4 times in just 10 years, increased measures of health, academic performance… all from starting with healing their ecosystem.
It can fight climate change, soil loss, the depletion of our aquifers, the decline of fisheries, and ecosystem collapse.
And finally, it can help us design more beautiful, meaningful lives, with a richer connection to nature and our communities.
And if we can get that right, then we can create viral change. If we can create truly beautiful, rich lives by working with nature, instead of against it, and healing the planet and communities instead of exploiting them, then we won’t have to twist people’s arms to create change. They’ll line up for it like it’s the new iPhone.
Michael Hoag: Manager/teacher/gardener/author/designer/consultant.
Michael Hoag has spent over 20 years as a full-time worker in the army of Permaculture change-makers. He is founder of the Transformative Adventures Cooperative, managing director of Lillie House Permaculture, and a full-time Permaculture designer and consultant who has participated in over 300 projects. He has worked on farms of all sizes, worked with food justice organizations, colleges and universities, and environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, and PIRGIM. As a teacher trainer, he has worked as a pedagog in crafting university curricula, adult education curricula, and programs for environmental and ecological awareness, and Permaculture. He has worked at a farm credit bureau, a commodities exchange, and managed farmers markets. He has created businesses including market gardens, vermicomposting operations, and helped start and lead multiple community and non-profit organizations.
Michael has over 20 years experience teaching classes and facilitating group projects, including community garden and forest garden projects. He’s an enthusiastic researcher of traditional temperate forest garden systems and productive ecologies of the Great Lakes region. The culture, history and aesthetics of gardens and garden architecture are his great passions, and he believes beautiful, healthy landscapes grow beautiful, healthy people and cultures. He has taught and lectured for McHenry County College, Arora University, the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, the Chicago Adult Learning Resource Center, The Kalamazoo Nature Center, and gives presentations to community groups, organizations and churches. He helps organize Van-Kal Permaculture, the SoMi Permimixer, Michigan Safe Energy Future, CORE and the Kalamazoo Climate Change Coalition’s Food Group.
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