Grass Roots - Permaculture for Everyone
You may have heard the word floating around but not know much about it. The word is commonly related to planty things, hippies and enviro geeks. Well that is true but it's not just about just these green loving groups - it’s a much wider revolution than that and everyone should be doing it...
Have you ever seen Z is for Zachariah (not a great film but gets you thinking) or even The Walking Dead? So many post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows are floating around, you might think people would be scared enough by these ideas of Armageddon to consider what they would do in the situation. Samurai swords, canned ham and distilled water supplies aside, you would need to be self-sustainable if anything went awry.
But that's worst case scenario.
I was fairly permaculture ignorant until last weekend. I've always had a green thumb - growing vegetables and herbs was my 'thing' as a kid, but as I moved further into an urban lifestyle, limitations ensued.
Zaytuna farm is located in the stunning Lismore shire of Northern NSW, tucked far enough away from Byron Bay’s tie dye central to completely escape the bustle of the popular tourist spot. They regularly offer day long tours of the farm to give people the opportunity to see how a 66 acre property does things.
The farm is run by its owner Jeff Lawton (not Lawnton which would have been so apt!) and some year-long interns who stem from all around the globe – UK, South America, Malaysia and other parts of Australia. The student perma-learners live on the site, are taught the theory and the practical info which they ran us through for a majority of the farm tour. The students definitely know their stuff, spouting botanic names (biggus treeus, leafus gigantor etc.) and knowing the processes inside and out.
Jeff runs a hellishly popular online course that teaches students in more than just the aforementioned countries – its reach is far more expansive.
So what on earth does Permaculture entail?
Baby bunnies. Giant turkeys. Well-shaped chooks. Abundant herbs. Food forests that allow you to open your mouth and anything you chomp on is edible?
Not quite, but close. The farm we visited was sustainable, environmentally friendly and self-sufficient. Most of the food served in the kitchen comes directly from somewhere on the property or neighbouring organic farms. And let me tell you, it was d-lish!
There is a hell of a lot to understanding Permaculture. From soil maintenance, climates, growing positions, what grows where, harvesting, maximising water usage and how to deal with pests.
On the animal side of things - cows, chickens and turkeys roam freely while the rabbits’ natural habitat is mimicked to ensure maximum happiness. A lot of love goes into these furry friends despite most of them being future food. But their use isn’t just for food purposes; they remove pests, ready the soil for planting, remove excess greenery and fertilize the plants.
This place was designed for an apocalypse – provided the zombies or natural disaster didn’t find its way there.
But Permaculture is not just for the land abundant 9 – 5 farmer. A small backyard was stated as big enough to feed a family. And there are even options for city folk who have limited planting space. No discrimination there.
Take into account the basic ethics of Permaculture according to author Bill Mollison in his book: Permaculture a Designer’s Manual (2012):
Care for the earth
Care for people
My other half has been doing Jeff Lawton’s online course for a few months now so I got his thoughts on the topic. He emphasised that contributions to Permaculture ethics don’t need to be farm-sized – “It's about lots of people doing a little bit to make change. Like grass roots” he said. Little blades of grass working together to make a whole lot of grass. Got it.
So it doesn’t have to be using your whole back yard to make your food. Any tiny space will do if that’s all you have. And that’s good enough.
So where to start?
Start small. - Use the space you have available to create something. Even just a small pot of one herb will do. - What do you eat often that you could grow so you know it’s grown without chemicals and with love?
Give back - Use your fruit and vegetable scraps as fertiliser - Do herbs or vegetables you buy have the ability to be replanted? (Think shallots & potatoes) - Support other people who live sustainability – buy at local markets from spray-free or organic farms.
And remember to enjoy being outdoors and in nature as us humans were in the beginning.
For more information visit www.permaculturenews.org and go to Google to find your local farmer’s markets.
If you live in Brisbane, check out http://www.nscf.org.au/organic-farmers-market/