The Permaculture Series: Principles in Action
Updated: Mar 9
This post is Part 2 in a series on permaculture. Read Part 1 here to catch up!
In part one of the permaculture series, we covered the history of permaculture and what it is and is not. This entry will showcase just a handful of organizational projects across the United States. We'll briefly cover what they hope to accomplish with their time and labor investments to solve issues of climate change locally and globally.
Permaculture design certification courses are perhaps the most substantial method to recruit new pupils of the philosophy. It is the successive generations that will carry on the projects of yesterday, after all. As with any transaction that involves monetary exchange for goods and services, remember the 6 P's of certification shopping: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Permaculture Performance! Courses come under scrutiny sometimes due to the freewheeling nature of a few, less scrupulous program creators. Beware cut-rate certifications and unlicensed designer instruction, as this can create a negative permaculture experience before you've even begun to learn. However, utilizing the 6 P's effectively can lead to finding a group of passionate people just like you, perhaps even down the road! Ask yourself these questions to help guide your course decision making:
Why do you want to learn about permaculture or urban permaculture?
-Are you looking to start a permaculture gardening group of your own or institute some permaculture value in your backyard?
Do you have specific interests?
-Are you living in an urban settlement that requires some extra ingenuity or have a desire to utilize a nearby pond for eco-friendly landscaping?
Do you learn better with in-person lessons or through independent study?
-Diving into a 2-week design course is a great way to solidify your investment, but if you like the self-paced approach, online coursework is always expanding its offerings through online learning communities.
Besides design courses and yearly training in permaculture design and agricultural management, there is a wealth of information available to find your own local listings and get involved in workshops, hands-on cleanups. Many community-run websites keep updated listings of events.
Now let’s focus on permaculture in businesses that have massive projects across the United States. Heading south to Florida, we find Jubilee Organics, a biodiverse, 12-acre farm that utilizes permaculture strategies and principles for high-density food production. Like Greenscape Geeks, they also don’t use any herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers for a bee-friendly and pollinator-friendly operation. A cycle of mineral matter and humus soil layers leads to beneficial insects as well as fungal and bacterial growth that allows the dirt to do its work to produce the healthiest, most sustainable growing environment possible.
Green Dreams is currently undertaking a large scale project in Manatee County, Florida. It is an expansive, multi-year project that already boasts 30 acres to be the future home of large-scale mango production, sustainable agriculture/permaculture educational facility, plus additional functions to be announced as the project progresses!
Urban Organic Gardening: Growing Locally
Big projects are logistical marvels of agriculture and sustainability coming together, but what about smaller projects? It often pays to think local when trying to spread a message. At least that is what the members of the Center for Sustainable Living in Bloomington, Indiana do! They use their 20 years of experience to help lead community-based, self-organized, and sustainability-oriented projects. One of their more awareness-based campaign is a “Trashion” or “Re-fashion” show to demonstrate risks of fast fashion and a perpetuating a culture of carefree disposal. They have more practical bicycle repair workshops to encourage more riders and build bike-friendly areas of travel.
Work, Study, Produce
Business and grassroots projects comprise the bulk of permaculture ideas in America, but what about those who want to get involved and continue in higher education at the same time? The University of Massachusetts Amherst is stoking the passions of young permaculture enthusiasts with on-campus programs and student groups. By utilizing just a 1/2 acre of unused grass space across the campus, the gardens yielded almost 1,800 lbs of produce valued at over $9K. That is an excellent course value that mixes field experience and agribusiness! These budding permits are now in their 9th growing season on campus. Backed by passionate teachers and bolstered by a first-place win in the 2012 White House Champions of Change Challenge, UMass Permaculture is going to keep on growing!
Hillside Landscaping and Passion Projects
Finally, if you want an example of how hard work and persistence pays off, look to Mark Shephard and his New Forest Farm in Wisconsin. Over 23 years, a typical row-crop farm has been converted into a perennial polyculture agroforestry system. That is quite a mouthful, but an apt description for the mind-boggling variety that New Forest Farm brings to the table (literally). This diversity is also what has given New Forest Farms the longevity it needs to become profitable and produce income from nut-fruits, livestock, produce.
The few examples above demonstrate the labors of love and community involvement that help define permaculture in all its forms. Maybe there is a hidden gem of permaculture in your state that you've heard some rumors about; investigate further and share in the comments below so we can talk more about them! Although large tracts of land and several decades of lean time are hard to come by for most folks, there are tried-and-true ways to start your journey to permaculture. Our next entry in the series will cover how you can get involved in small or medium scale projects of your own using local resources you may have not even known were there!