What Is Permaculture?

By Crystal Moore-Stevens

I first learned the term “Permaculture” 14 years ago while a senior in high school. I was on an eco adventure in the Caribbean rainforest of Costa Rica with an environmental leadership program called Eco-Act, a program founded and facilitated by The Missouri Botanical Garden in 1981 to inspire earth stewardship in youth. We visited the Punta Mona Center for Sustainable Living and Education, an off the grid 85 acre organic permaculture farm on the Caribbean Sea. Stephen Brooks and his sister Lisa started an eco tourism business called Costa Rican Adventures. Stephen is also the founder of Kopali Organics, an organic food company dedicated to supporting small farmers and providing a highly nutritious food source to the public. Stephen has been a major catalyst in The Permaculture movement. He has taught thousands of individuals around the globe how to bring sustainability into fruition.

Permaculture was a term coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978. The term originally stood for permanent agriculture but in the last few decades, the word Permaculture has evolved into Permanent Culture.

10 concepts I learned about permaculture during my stay at Punta Mona almost 15 years ago:

  1. Permaculture incorporates the existing ecosystem into the plans of development without compromising the integrity of the land, the water or the habitat of native flora and fauna.
  2. Permaculture works with nature, not against it.
  3. Permaculture gardens provide food for humans, animals, pollinators and food for the soil. Nitrogen fixing plants are an important component in permaculture.
  4. Permaculture fosters symbiotic relationships.
  5. Permaculture provides a global solution to widespread epidemics including hunger and starvation, environmental degradation, deforestation, pollution, and reliance on fossil fuels.
  6. Permaculture gardens can help heal the land and its people.
  7. Permaculture promotes all aspects of sustainability and focuses on how all of the solutions for a greener future can work together. Integrating alternative energy systems into small scale organic food production is just one way of carrying out permaculture concepts.
  8. Permaculture promotes healthy food, clean air and clean water.
  9. Permaculture focuses on the complex interrelationships within the food web. It restores our balance with the natural world.
  10. Permaculture is a catalyst for a sustainable future.

Anyone and everyone is capable of practicing permaculture techniques in their own lives.

Growers from all around the globe are helping to heal themselves, their communities, and the environment around them by bringing permaculture to life one seed at a time. Listening to the stories of symbiotic relationships between people and people, plants and people and plants and the earth helps to define the very essence of permaculture. Illuminating the points at which all of these relationships intersect is up to us. Bridging the gap between cultural diversity and biodiversity is a key component in Permaculture. Paying homage to each other as stewards of the earth by offering support, encouragement and love is one way we can truly send out ripples of change to the world.

Practice permaculture in your own backyard:

  • Grow an organic vegetable garden to feed your family, friends and neighbors. Use straw to mulch or practice lasagna gardening and sheet mulching to suppress weeds.
  • Get a rain barrel and use a rainwater catchment system to water your garden. Build simple bio swales to channel water.
  • Start a compost pile to produce your own organic fertilizer and reduce waste.
  • Plant native perennial flowers to attract pollinators. Plant native trees to clean the air and provide a habitat for wildlife.
  • There are several free online permaculture courses. St. Louis is home to thousands of permaculture enthusiasts. The St. Louis Permaculture Guild hosts a slew of permaculture related workshops and events.

Permaculture Magazine is an excellent source for ideas and inspiration. www.lavistacsa.org.