The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country
Permaculture is a design system for sustainable living and land use first articulated by Bill Mollison and myself in Australia in the mid-1970s. Since then it has spread around the world stimulating creative household and community initiatives to reduce ecological footprint, increase resilience and relocalize economies. While the scope of permaculture applications ranges from aquaculture to design against disaster, from ecological building to local currencies, many people would understand permaculture as being a form of organic gardening.
The idea that gardening is the most sustainable form of agriculture and the basis for the relocalization of our economies, proposed in Permaculture One (1978), was reinforced in a short essay I wrote in 1991, Gardening As Agriculture. In that essay I asserted that gardening should be recognized as a serious and important form of agriculture that functions as an incubator for new farmers and farming methods.
Over the last three decades a small but growing number of pioneers informed by permaculture and related concepts have shown how this is possible. In recent years the grassroots explosion of interest in food gardening and farming is reshaping mainstream approaches to sustainability. This belated recognition is a hopeful sign that an abundant and resilient future is possible by redesign of food production and consumption.
With his chosen term “garden farming,” long-time permaculture writer, publisher, teacher and practitioner Peter Bane crystallizes this concept for those new to permaculture as well as its seasoned practitioners seeking to extend their chosen way of life into a livelihood. In focusing on the productive transformation of our suburban and peri-urban allotments, Bane shows how these “problematic” landscapes could become the “solutions” in an energy descent world of ongoing climate change, expensive and unreliable energy and economic contraction.
In true permaculture style, this book combines empowering vision with grounded common sense, strategic thinking with nuts and bolts information.
Part One eloquently and simply conveys the principles and patterns behind this big-picture story. Bane’s pattern language of garden farming, based on the classic pattern language of architect and town planner Christopher Alexander, is a major contribution to the ongoing evolution of permaculture design methods.
Part Two draws on the author’s depth of experience as a permaculture teacher to explain the diverse components of permaculture design for creating a livelihood from garden farming in suburban and peri-urban landscapes. The metrics and rules of thumb necessary to make designs work are grounded in both the author’s personal experience and his extensive observation of pioneering examples of garden farming.
The reality of garden farming is convincingly portrayed and further illustrated at intervals through the book with case studies informed by permaculture design principles and patterns.
Of all the permaculture books from Australia, America and around the world, this one most completely fills the big space between my own articulation of permaculture theory in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) and my earlier intimate documentation of our own efforts towards garden farming in Melliodora: A Case Study in Cool Climate Permaculture (1995). This book is likely to become the classic design manual for those with the energy and enthusiasm to become the garden farmers of the future.
In the process, Peter Bane shows that, in hard times, the apparent ethical conflict between personal and household resilience on one hand and working for a better world on the other can be resolved applying permaculture ethics and design principles.
DAVID HOLMGREN is the co-originator of the permaculture concept. He is the author of Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) and Future Scenarios (2009), among many other books and publications. A smallholder and garden farmer in the Australian state of Victoria, he has taught permaculture design in North America, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East for nearly two decades, and has played a critical role in advancing global understanding of the complex and multilayered challenges surrounding energy and resource use.
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