permaculture orchard*
Permies likes permaculture and the farmer likes You can't feed even one person with permaculture permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies | World Domination!
Register / Login
permies » forums » growies » permaculture
Bookmark "You can Watch "You can New topic
Author

You can't feed even one person with permaculture

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Here's an objection to permaculture I got just today after posting Toby's "Permaculture can save humanity" video on another forum:

"I think permaculture is really cool as a supplemental agricultural practice & also good for city/town planning & architectural design in general however, I've never heard of anyone ever feeding any significant number of people (even one) on this alone."


I've mentioned Sepp Holzer and the Bullock Brothers as examples of people who feed people by permaculture.  If folks can give me some other successful examples of permaculture, that would be helpful. 


Idle dreamer

Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 335
Location: South West France
    
  15
Who told him Permaculture was a "Supplemental agricultural practice" I wonder ? 


La Ferme de Sourrou : Nos projets avec PHOTOS
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Irene Kightley wrote:
Who told him Permaculture was a "Supplemental agricultural practice" I wonder ? 


His own ass?

Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 389
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
    9
I agree that compiling a list/map of successful permacultures would be very handy, especially if some of the permacultures had an educational/outreach component to them, i.e. they are open to visitors either physically or through some other means (website, video, etc.).  I would guess that there are some lists already.

I would also like to see a discussion of "permaculture metrics" as compared to existing agricultural metrics.  i.e. how is "success" defined (and how should it be defined)?

e.g. for industrial agriculture the standard business metrics probably apply - revenue, profit, market size, number of competitors we destroyed, productivity per employee, etc.  I doubt these are metrics that a permaculture would use.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3080
Location: woodland, washington
    
  52
be careful about what you hold up as an example of feeding people, Ludi.  I'm relatively certain that both the places you mentioned grow a lot of food.  if it turns out that either one of them imports food, though, you may have shot yourself in the foot in terms of credibility.

there are plenty of folks practicing permaculture who feed themselves and others, but I don't think holding them up as shining beacons will be as effective as just doing it ourselves and being examples in our own communities.  changing folks' mind on internet forums seems to be rather rare.  but good luck anyhow.


find religion! church
kiva! hyvä! iloinen! pikkumaatila
get stung! beehives
be hospitable! host-a-hive
be antisocial! facespace
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Oh well, it's ok if I shoot myself in the foot, because people who aren't interested in permaculture aren't going to get interested just because I debate them about it.  They have to learn about it themselves.  Most of the objections seem to be kind of strawmen, like "It's too hard!" and "People will starve while waiting for their food forests to grow!"  and there's not much I can figure out to say in response except "it's easier than some other kinds of food-growing" and "the idea is to plant the food forest well before you're going to be starving."

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I guess I have to wonder if any agriculturist anywhere feeds even one person!  Most farmers buy food at the store like other folks.....
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 389
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
    9
Rebecca Hosking asks the question "Can permaculture feed Britain?" at 31:00 in her film "A Farm for the Future" - http://www.viddler.com/explore/PermaScience/videos/4/
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Here's one good reply to such arguments:
http://www.permaculture.com/node/141

The math is easy. With a polyculture, yields of 3-10 pounds of food per square foot are easy to come up with in most climates. For comparison, commercial agriculture in California , which is way inefficient, routinely runs about 1.5-2.5 pounds per square foot per year across a wide variety of crops.


For most people, permaculture will be one of many partial solutions to the complex problems we face.

The corn farmer doesn't eat just corn - he 'imports' from other producers. The idea that a permie has to grow 100% of their own food is not one that most permies subscribe to. The point is that the typical corn farmer produces a surplus (even if some overlook the destructive aspects of most corn monoculture, like soil erosion and depletion, pesticide use, etc).

It IS important that permaculture can be shown to produce a surplus. I am already doing that, and am certain that it is a worthwhile effort that will generate even larger surpluses in the future.

I started with citrus before I was really conscious of permaculture, and that is most mature and developed on my 1/2 acre suburban lot. My permaculture citrus trees are just as productive as the average citrus trees in Florida. My family has all the citrus we can eat from November to April, and we give a fair amount to friends. We also have a small amount of citrus year round from a calmondin orange and lemon tree. This is using a small fraction of our yard, with very little in the way of fertilizer, nothing in the way of chemical pest control, shipping costs, etc.  Swales are going in to reduce run off and put water down into the soil where the trees can use it for weeks or months. Steps are being taken to preserve and build the fertility of the soil.

Other plants are continually being added and they are starting to produce - not a huge surplus yet, but yields are increasing and I am early into the process. Have put in olives, mulberry, okinawan spinach, edible hibiscus, nopal, canna, tea, chaya, bananas (iffy in our location) figs, etc. etc. 

This year, a few volunteer pumpkin vines appeared and I decided to mow around them when they grew into the lawn. That gave me 80 pounds of seminole pumpkin, which can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Guess who has a surplus of pumpkin pie?  Next year, I will be planting saved pumpkin seeds for an understory crop and think I could easily see 1000 pounds of pumpkin with very little effort ... that is a serious surplus for a family of 4.

As soil fertility declines, as fuel for agriculture and transport becomes more expensive, as groundwater is depleted and potash and phosphate deposits are used up - we will be forced to abandon much of our plow based agriculture with feedlots and return to agroforestry and pastured grazing.  This future may not be permaculture per se, but will involve a move towards what permaculture is pointing to. 


Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
My farm could serve as an example for you:

We had a 22 member CSA foodbox program this year, and I would consider our farm to be practicing permaculture. Half the boxes were for singles and couples, and the other half were families. I'd estimate that would be about 60 people.

We provided an average of 7 items to our customers for 18 weeks on about an acre of cultivated land, as well as wild edibles.

We also sold extra produce to restaurants and had a weekly table at a nearby farmers market for about 14 weeks. And of course we ate a lot of veggies from the garden ourselves.

We probably could've been able to support more than the 22 members but wanted to start small as it was our first year on this farm.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Thanks Travis - can I use your name or name of your farm?

And that was your first year?  All I can say is - wow! 
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Feel free to use both names if you wish, and of course you may post the link to our website if you want to.

For a first year it went pretty good, though we had a lot of crop loss for various reasons. Slugs, bad planting timing, and underestimating fertility were the main issues we had. We learned a lot and I think we'll be able to make the proper adjustments to lessen the failures next year. Here's hoping anyways...

We're now up to about 3-4 acres of garden space, with the eventual goal of 10-20, all in food forest style plantings.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Great!  Thank you!
                                  


Joined: Sep 17, 2010
Posts: 40
David Blume describes how his two acre CSA farm provided vegetables for 300 people.  http://www.permaculture.com/drupal/node/141
John Saltveit
volunteer

Joined: May 09, 2010
Posts: 581
    
  17
How about "Permaculture fed nearly everyone on earth for nearly all of history before WOrld War II"?

How about "most people on earth do not get most of their food from grocery stores"?

How about "Permaculture is a goal for most permies.  Most have not yet fully achieved this goal, but the point is not to achieve it completely alone, but in association with others in their communities"??

Just some ideas.
John S
PDX OR
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
John: yeah, really eh... I'd love to ask the person that Ludi is referencing in the OP about what they think permaculture is. I think I'd be frightened of the answer. I've talked to a guerrilla gardener in Ottawa and his definition of permaculture was (to paraphrase) "That was made up by some australian guy, where you don't dig your gardens"
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
People seem to think it is some kind of New Age ideology.    Seriously, that's the main kind of objections I get other places.  "It's a religion" "New Agey" "Too ideological."  "Ok for a hobby, but not for really feeding people." 
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
This fall we participated in our regions farm tours and were the only permaculture farm on the list. I think we were the only non-conventional farm period.

The response was amazing. I'm sure some people had a lot of negatives going on in their heads too but vocally their was a lot of positive feedback as people got to understand the how and why, not just the what, behind our no-till, polycultural gardens filled with wild plants as well as veggies and fruit trees.

There were a  few conventional farmers who came through, and even a guy from the agricultural board, and maybe they were humouring me but they seemed impressed. Though since they're used to seeing 100 or more acres of production, my 2/3's of an acre garden by the house must have seemed peanuts. We didn't have time to showcase the gardens in other 'outer' zones unfortunately.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I love that the response was amazing, Travis!      That's why I think it is so important for us all to build our own permaculture gardens or farms to show to other people.  I hope to eventually get to a point where I feel comfortable inviting people to see my place.  But in the meantime I can talk about what I'm doing and show pictures. 
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
can't permaculturists buy some of their food from other permaculturists? and If so isn't all the food being provided by permaculture? duh..who gives a rip what all these other people think..and what if you import a few things..like salt and cinnamon that you can't get in Michigan naturally?


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Brenda Groth wrote:
and what if you import a few things..like salt and cinnamon that you can't get in Michigan naturally?


I guess you're a total failure!   

I've suggested maybe they should read a book about it before they criticize it. 
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Mollisons 'Intro to Permaculture' is one of the required books for the ecosystems management college course that I took awhile back. We also watch his video 'Global Gardener' in class, which is what inspired me to work towards this lifestyle. However, I think it backfires a bit with some people. I've talked with some who have looked through the book but then get the impression that permaculture is only applicable in the tropics.

I just had an epiphony; that I should bring this to the attention of the program coordinator, and suggest a switch to Gaia's Garden! The school has had problems getting enough copies of Mollisons book anyhow. Well, its worth a shot I think.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
The main problem I have with "Gaia's Garden" is the title, which puts people off completely especially if they have the "New Agey" impression of permaculture.  This other board I posted Toby's video on I've only been talking about permaculture for like, oh, about FIVE YEARS and still I think some of the people who have been there the whole time have never bothered to read a book about it but still keep making the same complaints. 

I guess at some point I should just give up, but, I always hope maybe there's a lurker who will benefit from the information.  It's hard for me to be patient with the detractors, though, because so many of their complaints are strawmen. 
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
The majority of the students in the school are environmentally and, to an extent spiritually minded enough to appreciate the title, so I'm not worried about that with this particular audience, though I know what you mean. He should have just called it "This Is How To Grow Lots Of Food Efficiently.
Kirk Hutchison


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
My first though upon reading the post title was "Wow, this person is about to get SLAMMED!"


Paleo Gardener Blog
                          


Joined: Nov 13, 2010
Posts: 43
Location: Ozarks
This is a common enough question... Well, let me just say, permaculture (or at least ecoagriculture) will NEED to feed the world. Because we can't keep polluting it with toxic chemicals, etc.


Small farm in the Ozarks

Cream Separators
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
I have this sinking feeling that somehow, some way, the monsanto's of the world will continue to do what they've been doing. I could see further subsidizing at the expense of taxpayers to offset rising fuel costs, and further exploration/experimentation with more desperate methods of oil extraction (eg. Tar sands, Shale beds etc.)

I hope this is not the case, but these multi-nationals aren't going to go quietly into the night, and I think they have too much pride and/or ignorance to see the light of natural farming.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Then it is important for us to withdraw our support from the agribusiness/corporate system as much as we can, and starve them out, putting our support instead into systems we agree with. 

I have to admit I've done a pretty lame job of this so far. 
                    


Joined: Nov 01, 2010
Posts: 13
Location: Linköping, Sweden
I don't think this is a fair criticism of permaculture itself, but it is a fair criticism of many permaculture sites. Some places focus way too much on courses and not enough on actually maintaining a productive agricultural system.
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
Ludi wrote:
Here's an objection to permaculture I got just today after posting Toby's "Permaculture can save humanity" video on another forum:

"I think permaculture is really cool as a supplemental agricultural practice & also good for city/town planning & architectural design in general however, I've never heard of anyone ever feeding any significant number of people (even one) on this alone."


I've mentioned Sepp Holzer and the Bullock Brothers as examples of people who feed people by permaculture.  If folks can give me some other successful examples of permaculture, that would be helpful. 


Ludi, I guess that person never saw the 300+ year old multi-generational farm in Vietnam that provides all the food (meat and veggie) & medicines on one property. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5ZgzwoQ-ao


Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I'm guessing they didn't even watch Toby's video. 

Thanks for that link.  I'm watching it now. 
C Shobe


Joined: Nov 09, 2010
Posts: 54
adunca wrote:
Rebecca Hosking asks the question "Can permaculture feed Britain?" at 31:00 in her film "A Farm for the Future" - http://www.viddler.com/explore/PermaScience/videos/4/


But...but...  I thought growing 1000 acres of soybean monocrop was "sustainable"! 
                    


Joined: Feb 02, 2010
Posts: 21
This sounds like the same argument I keep hearing again and again.  Can Permaculture compete with a conventional agriculture system.  This all depends on what end result your comparing.  If you are simply judging yields of produce conventional farming is going to win.  I'm sure I'll take some flack for saying that.  But you have to keep in mind the advantages they have with fossil fuels being a corner stone of their process.  The comparisons I've seen for the Permaculture side, cite that forest gardens can produce more biomass.  Sure but all biomass isn't edible.  If your judging all the uses and utility a food forest has it will win hands down.  But until cheap energy is no longer cheap comparing how many people these agriculture methods can economically feed, permaculture isn't going to come out on top.  Though I don't know about you but I didn't plant my forest garden to simple make as much produce as possible.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
At one point, I've seen numbers thrown around that a "pre-industrialized" average farmer produced enough food to feed 8, and the current average is some order of magnitude higher than that.  I'm not sure if that was supposed to be producing enough to provide ALL the calories for 8.

How would the comparison for one permaculture-style producer work in this context?


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think you'd have to look at a lot of different factors, such as hours worked, size of farm, etc.  There's a limit to how much a single person can manage.  Agriculture takes a huge amount of labor, whereas horticulture/permaculture is much more labor efficient, but the labor of the horticulturist/permaculturist might be more complex and detailed.  Harvest would take place every day versus just once or twice a year with grains.

Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
I agree, there are alot of variables to factor in.  That limit of how much one person can do is the main focal point, I think.  One can choose to utilize a large section of land in a  limited fashion (one crop, one vertical layer, etc...) or a small piece of land that is utilized in an intensive fashion.

I tend to believe 'the one acre could feed 10 people' perspective, but I think it would take nearly the full attention of one person to pull it off.
              


Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
First, check out Joel Salatin. He is in Food ink, written a bunch of books, his latest being 'The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer', and you can check out his website at polyfacefarms.com. He is one of many.

Then, is the guy saying you can not have a permaculture fruit and nut tree farm, berry farm, perennial farm that doesn't feed a bunch of people in combination with a veggie farm and animals?

Next, I'd say there was a split in the road a while back on how to farm. You have those who follow the... Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries etc. Then you have those who have used scientific observation and collaboration of knowledge to assist in creating gardens of eden all over the place. Both use science. One is cold and industrial, while the other is more elegant and industrious. Similar to those who treat illness vs those who treat the cause. Different approach.

So, seems like an argument between permanent agriculture and strip mining agriculture, but whatever.

I would also bring up the point that it is not how much you grow, but what the nutritional content of the food is. Nutrient rich food, you eat less, live longer. Calorie rich food, you eat more, live less. What is the guy trying to prove, Industrial armies in Agriculture have created big cities and pandemic health issues, followed by a huge health care and pharmaceutical industry. For commerce, who can argue with industrialized everything. You lose your quality of life, freedom of choice, etc in the process.

I'd think in the end, permaculture will be a set it and forget it system . my two cents worth.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Salatin's book "Salad Bar Beef" is very good - he has a number of very good techniques: using rotational grazing to rejuvenate pastures, following the cows with grazing birds to reduce flies and produce another crop, etc. etc.  Very low in external inputs (a bit of seaweed, salt and some biological soap he uses as first defense against parasites), very much consistent with permaculture.  And he provides enough beef, chicken, eggs and turkey to feed as many or more people as would come from using that land for a grain to cow operation.
Guy De Pompignac


Joined: Nov 16, 2010
Posts: 188
Location: SW of France
Jonathan_Byron wrote:
Salatin's book "Salad Bar Beef" is very good - he has a number of very good techniques: using rotational grazing to rejuvenate pastures, following the cows with grazing birds to reduce flies and produce another crop, etc. etc.  Very low in external inputs (a bit of seaweed, salt and some biological soap he uses as first defense against parasites), very much consistent with permaculture.  And he provides enough beef, chicken, eggs and turkey to feed as many or more people as would come from using that land for a grain to cow operation.


If i remember correctly he bought his chicks and grains for poultry


Follow our design (in french) on our 3 acres property in SW France.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
That's right, Salatin's chickens are fed by grain which was bought in, and the chicks are Cornish Cross from a hatchery.

I think his son's rabbits are completely fed on the farm.
 
 
subject: You can't feed even one person with permaculture
 
Similar Threads
eco witch hunt
permaculture farming economically viable?
Synonyms for Permaculture.
A Permablitz to change the world
Wikipage
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books