How Permaculture Saves Our Sanity
There is a movement underfoot.
Like a wildfire slow to catch, farmers all over the globe are changing back to natural techniques, rediscovering that simply allowing our Mother Earth to do her job puts the quality back into our earthcare, and the wow into our food.
These “new-ancient” farming efforts are still far from being the global standard, but the winds of demand are kicking up, and the inevitable spread is coming. I guess we’ve all had enough of pink mushball tomatoes and plastic fruit!
Perhaps by now many people have heard the term "permaculture," which refers to the practice of creating agricultural environments that are rich with a diversity of interdependent living things. These environments become balanced (in a similar way to natural ecosystems), and end up requiring less effort (and no toxic fertilizers or pesticides) to grow and harvest food.
Sounds like an easy choice to make, right?
That’s why this philosophy, and a growing network of mindfully-managed farms, is spreading across the globe like wildfire.
The difference between permaculture and “conventional” chemical farming, has to do with how each the farmer treats the soil.
The permaculture approach enriches soil with composted organic material and other naturally-occurring nutrients produced on-site. Organic matter is efficiently degraded into compost, which is cycled back into the soil to fertilize crops and maintain soil structure. Plants grow and die, are processed back into compost and it all repeats indefinitely, without relying on external inputs.
Plants are arranged so that they benefit each other, cooperating to enhance soil health and moisture. And in dryer climates, swales are dug to capture rainwater and let it soak slowly into the soil instead of washing away in a flood.
We arrange our zones of activity for sensible convenience and advantage, paying mind to the natural landscape and features which surround us. We avoid the introduction of outside materials and maintain sustainable functions.
On the other hand, chemical farming, the commercial world-wide norm, uses fertilizers made of laboratory-isolated elements and minerals, plows it under the soil or chucks it into the hydroponic nutrient swill. Cheaper, less work, and all you have to do is follow directions on the bag.
Of course, you lose the tilth in your soil structure, poison the water table, and produce flaccid food that may be large, but is very low in essential nutrients. But, hey, you’ve saved a few pennies!
Crops fertilized chemically tend to exhibit high yields yet lose potency- lower nutrient yields and flavor, not to mention that the soil goes flat and becomes more susceptible to erosion. And that’s just the beginning.
Eventually, the health of your crops is so low that they are much more susceptible to pests and fungus, so farmers must resort to more pesticide spraying to save their crops. Nowadays we’re used to the paradigm that we’re constantly under attack: whether by crop pests or by bacteria in our lungs. We’ve come to accept the idea that we must constantly struggle and fight off these invaders. We become like Sisyphus, condemned to perform a futile task until the end of time.
But the reality is so much simpler. Crops farmed sustainably, using solid permaculture principles, are actually more vibrant and pest-resistant (just like maintaining a healthy immune system is better than constantly taking antibiotics).
If this “ancient” technology is so effective, how did we ever get off the path to Eden? That story takes a little detour through the history of “conventional” farming.
I believe we’ve had our fair experiment with hydrocarbon technology, and found that it didn’t work out as planned. Somewhere along the line we lost sight of quality, we stopped making sense, and that has cost us significantly.
Time to move on, then. We are now witnessing a great shift forward toward ancient wisdom. Permaculture is the best practices of our ancestors, mixed with nifty tricks we’ve picked up along the way. We know that our bodies as well as our planet are as sacred as our temples.
So why not become a conscious consumer and vote with your dollars? Support companies that farm sustainably. Not only will you be enjoying higher nutrient food, you’ll be helping to free the planet from its insane cycle of chemical addiction.