Permaculture is a comprehensive strategy to create food-producing landscapes. In a one-liner, it is a blending of design, technology and agriculture plus a rural thrift engendered by the wisdom from being rooted-in-the land. Such rootedness is necessary for the re-development of a stable society, its culture and economy.
Since the late 1970's it has grown into a grassroots movement to restore abundant natural landscapes that incorporate soil and wildlife conservation into the cropping system. The crop is designed to be self-renewing with a minimal input of labor and materials. Permaculture could also be appropriately labeled the 'capstone' of agro-forestry by promoting the development and wide-spread cultivation of improved varieties of tree crops (perennials) to combine with or replace annual cropping systems, integrated with domestic animals. Such a cropping system reverses soil erosion, increases wildlife habitat and feeds people.
The combination of perennial grasses, annual broad-leafy weeds, early succession N-fixing treees, animals, and food-bearing trees represents one of the most abundant landscapes on the Earth, the savanna. Think grassland + woodland-groves. Taking this ecosystem as model, it is possible to develop farms that produce abundant food and at the same time restore the balance of nutrient cycling at work in wild nature (no one is fertilizing the forest).
At Raven Ridge Farmcapes, we offer Agro-forestry and Silvo-pasture consultation & design services to farmers, ranchers, hobby foresters, NGO's and back-yard enthusiasts. This includes orchard installations on existing farms, alley-cropping systems, windbreak plantations, fodder and forage cropping, field layout, fencing, and guidelines for how to plan and maintain your plantings from purchase to production.
Permaculture has arrived in the 21st century with as many titles as it has serious practitioners, and the one I prefer is Restoration Agriculture, based on Mark Shepherd's work in Wisconsin. In recognition of the fact that permaculture seeks restoration of the ecological patterns and stabilization of human economy through agriculture, the term restoration is more appropriate than the popular term sustainable. Indeed, agriculture has the biggest impact--by far-- of every human activity on Earth , so while we seek to make a harvest we must also seek to regenerate the fertility of our abused, over-farmed land.
Wendell Berry said
There is no such thing as independence, just responsible and irresponsible dependence.
This applies to the relationship of human beings to each other as much as it does to our very physical connection to the animals, the land, soil, water and sky. In a sense, this quote is the attitude we must adopt in order to combine the constant endeavors of family & society with the unremitting engines of economics & ecology in a harmonious way. Such an attitude enables LIFE to carry on without depriving one part of itself to feed another.
Whether we choose to manage the land with fire, by grazing animals, with seed, tractors & equipment, or by planting 1000's of trees, or by non-management, we cannot escape the truth that all people must eat. To deny the importance of how food is produced means to deny ourselves a deep feeling of dependence on the land. This dependence is a sacred bond of the belly, through our food, air, water and light. This bond, the origin of culture, the overflowing abundance of life.