"Permaculture is observational and free-form; instead of rules to follow, it offers a lense to look through. In the natural world, a meadow maintains its equilibrium because all its inhabitants do their part. Bees pollinate. Birds control insect populations and help spread seeds. Plants draw carbon into the soil, then decompose to provude green manure nutrients for others. The madow thrives because its 'participants' do their share. Nature preaches balance." - Douglas Gayeton

As we continue to investigate methods in which to build a resilient food system, we learn in this week’s Food List that the solutions are often right in front of us (and above and below).

Permaculture is a systems method that integrates people into their natural environment. As expert Penny Livingston-Stark says, “Learning to work with the Earth not only creates a healthier environment, it also nourishes the people who live in it.” Its expanding awareness.

Permaculture is an agroecological approach. As our friends at the Center for Ecoliteracy explain, permaculture is a systemic solution to a systemic problem. With the appropriate attention, it could easily manifest into an eco-design revolution. This is exactly what Juliana Birnbaum, author of Sustainable Revolution, hopes for. She sees permaculture as a method in designing a better world for our children.

Finding inspiration in applying permaculture is easy. Just ask Geoff Lawton. You simply mimic nature’s sustainability. This is exactly what one group did in Seattle. And now, they are feeding their community for free with a 2 acre food forest. It’s all about letting nature do the work.

We wrap up this edion of the Food List with a glimpse into the backyard of one family’s ¼ acre permaculture plot that sustains them and their resident bees.

Follow nature’s lead. Explore different ways you can implement permaculture techniques in your own backyard and greater community.

This week's terms


A “whole systems” approach to the design of human settlements that integrates landscape, water, plants, animals, built structures, agriculture, ecology, energy, economy and social justice into a framework that provides opportunities for humans to become benefit to the planet and all creation while supplying resources for an abundant existence.


Everything we’re trying to do has already been evolved and tested over long periods of time, and that if we want to be more sustainable and learn how to live on this planet, it’s time to look to the organisms that have been here far longer than we have—that’s a field called “biomimicry”. It’s learning from the natural world—from designs, and prophecies, and strategies of organisms and ecosystems. Learning from them and then trying to emulate them in our own designs to create a more sustainable world.

Food Forest

Multi-layered gardens which allow some crops to be planted above and below one another. This carefully considered design principle, each inspired by lessons learned from the natural world, are examples of permaculture.

Green Manure

Green manure crops are plants grown for the primary purpose of improving soil health and fertility. Additional benefits include: reduced soil erosion and protection of water quality; pest, disease, and weed management; increased soil water holding capacity; and improved nutrient cycling through feeding soil microbial life. Green manures are usually incorporated into the soil before they mature, though sometimes they are left on the surface.

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