Permaculture

A community plant nursery in Bristol.
Permaculture is a term which was coined in the 1970's by two Australians named Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. They came up with the term to describe their approach for producing human food in a low impact and sustainable way. Together they looked at how we could feed ourselves without having a detrimental impact on our environment. They looked to nature for the answer - natural ecosystems are self-sustaining and harmonious after millenia of evolution, creating millions of symbiotic and beneficial relationships between plants, animals, and microorganisms. Mollison and Holmgren felt that we could mimic natural ecosystems to grow the plants we need. They came up with many methods and techniques for producing food, including what later became known as 'forest gardening' which mimics the natural ecosystem of a young woodland, comprising of 'layers' from high canopy trees to low ground-cover plants and everything in between. There is more information about this on the 'Forest Gardening' page.


Patrick Whitefield teaching students how to take soil samples.
Since then more and more people have picked up the permaculture baton and it has become a much broader subject incorporating everything from personal self-development and community projects to architecture, smallholding design and water conservation. Permaculture is now practised throughout the world with many national associations connecting people. In the UK we have the Permaculture Association which is a charitable organisation that certifies courses, holds skills sharing and networking events and runs the LAND project (Learning And Network Demonstration Project) which aims to spread knowledge and skills by connecting people working the land with volunteers, schools and students. The word has now become and umbrella term incorporating anything which adheres to the core principles. Those principles are summed up in the simple permaculture mantra:' Earth care; People care; Fair shares', ie: designing the way we live in order to be as sustainable, resilient and low impact as possible; To learn to live harmoniously in community with one another in order to achieve that, and to be true to our ethics in the way we live our lives and interact with one another.

Me showing a group how to use an A frame to find contours.

Many people now engage in short permaculture courses to help them with their own properties or with community projects. The Permaculture Design Course teaches people how to design spaces -be it a flat, house, garden, smallholding or farm - using permaculture principles, design methods and techniques in line with the principles. I trained in permaculture with Patrick Whitefield, author of The Earth Care Manual. Patrick described permaculture as:

"Learning from nature. The aim is to make our lives more sustainable and more productive while reducing the work and energy required. We do this by using nature as our model for designing our own houses, gardens, farms, woodlands, towns and villages."

Friends in Wales putting the principles to practice in their veggie patch.
I co-taught courses with Patrick for several years until he passed away in 2015. I now run Patrick Whitefield Associates, offering a range of permaculture courses in different formats, and a design and consultancy service. If you would like to know more, take a look at my website www.patrickwhitefield.co.uk.


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