Organic farming: the permaculture approach

David Madge, Mildura Permaculture is a concept of active design of agricultural and social systems. It aims to optimise the use of all resources including natural assets, labour and energy, without contributing to environmental degradation and while providing a worthwhile livelihood for all people involved. The ethics of permaculture include Earthcare (care of the Earth, its inhabitants and resources) and as this implies, Peoplecare (care of the social and physical needs of people). These ethics would also suit the organic farmer who aims to produce and supply healthy, nutritious food from a sustainable farming system. A more complete definition of this Australian-grown concept comes from the publication Permaculture: A Designers Manual. "Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. The philosophy behind Permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolution." In a way, permaculture is nothing new. Its practical techniques have in some cases been used for centuries. What is different is the approach - the deliberate integration, by design, of a wide range of techniques, functions and physical components with the aim of building complex, stable and productive systems, whether they be home blocks, hobby farms or commercial farming enterprises. This involves recognising and fostering the many relationships that can occur between the components of natural and artificial systems, including climatic factors, soils, plants, humans and their structures and other animals. Permaculture, like modern organic agriculture, does not mean a return to the pre-chemical, pre-technology 'good old days'. It involves making the best possible use of all appropriate techniques and information.

July 1995 AG0439 ISSN 1329-8062

"Permaculture is based on the observation of natural systems, the wisdom contained in traditional farming systems and modern scientific and technological knowledge. Although based on ecological models, Permaculture creates a cultivated ecology, which is designed to produce more human and animal food than is generally found in nature." (from Introduction to Permaculture).

Objectives of permaculture
The relevance of permaculture to organic farming (and agriculture in general) can be seen in the way some of its basic objectives relate to agricultural production: Maximising stability and resilience of the system An example of this is resistance to pest attack. This is achieved through the good placement and management of a diversity of individual components such as plants to support beneficial organisms, different crop types and varieties, shelterbelts and livestock. This same strategy of managing a diversity of components may also help offset effects of such events as adverse climatic conditions and market fluctuations. Maximising productivity This does not necessarily mean maximising production. It is achieved through diversity and by making most efficient use of the potential of each site, including soil type, water supply, aspect, slope and other natural features. It includes a view to long-term productivity, using practices aimed at the sustainable use and development of natural resources. The protection and where desirable, development of soil and water resources is emphasised in this approach. Minimising inputs Permaculture aims to minimise inputs required in the form of human involvement and energy to maintain the system. An example is the use of livestock or long-term mulch versus herbicides or repeated cultivation for weed management. A problem (weeds) may become a resource (animal products and manure) by good design and management. Minimising adverse environmental impact of the production system This comes from maximising the efficiency with which any on-farm or off-farm resources are used, minimising the use

© State of Victoria, Department of Primary Industries

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0801 Tel: c/o (089) 466535 This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its officers do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error. 5000 Tel: (08) 2776056 Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers Co-op. 4552 Tel: (074) 944676 Fax: (074) 944578 Permaculture Network South Australia c/o Global Education Centre 1st Floor. ISBN 0-908228-01-5. planned and managed in a holistic manner. GPO Box 351 Hobart Tas 7001 Tel/Fax: (002) 971773 Permaculture Melbourne Box 2408 Kew Vic 3101 Tel/Fax: (039) 98536828 Permaculture Association of Western Australia Box 430 Subiaco W. 155 Pirie St. In its endeavour to achieve these and other aims. David. Adelaide S. Tagari Publications.A. loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication. the permaculture design and development process would be of value to any farmer. 6008 Tel: (09) 4172274 References Madge. Green Harvest Permaculture Resource Centre 52 Crystal Waters MS 16 Maleny Qld. Mollison.A. Department of Primary Industries Page 2 . © State of Victoria. Ltd. Phillip ACT 2606 Tel: (06) 2690425 (pager) Permaculture International Box 6039 South Lismore NSW 2480 Tel:(066) 220020 Fax:(066) 220579 Permaculture Lifestyle Association of the Northern Territory GPO Box 2997 Darwin N. ISBN 0-908228-05-8. Melbourne: Agmedia Mollison.T. A function of the permaculture approach is to pull these and other relevant elements together so that the agricultural system and the broader environment in which it sits can be visualised. Permaculture organisations The following organisations can provide a first point of contact for permaculture and related activities and direct growers to their nearest local permaculture group and publication sources. Bill and Slay. Permaculture ACT c/o Mike Smith 10/6 Antis St. Reny (1991) Introduction to Permaculture. (in press) Organic agriculture: getting started.Organic farming: the permaculture approach AG0439 of non-renewable resources and maximum recycling of nutrients and potential 'wastes'. Bill. (1988) Permaculture : a Designers Manual.Tagari Publishers.

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