Permaculture and The Emergence of Big Business

Permaculture has achieved what the movement wished. In just a couple of decades it has been embraced by mainstream.  It has become a common word and is now having to shine its boots and pull up its socks.
In the early years, businesses in permaculture was frowned upon. It didn’t seem fair to allow commercialism to profit from a grass-roots movement that had ethics and empowerment at it’s heart. In some cases the frowning came most unfairly from people who had secure paid work in permaculture-related fields (teachers, writers, lecturers in sociology, mental health advocates, organisers of festivals and conferences etc).
If it is ok to have a job related to permaculture, then surely it is ok to have a business in permaculture. In fact it is more than ok, without people in small permaculture businesses, we wouldn’t have the magazines, the news articles, the suppliers of rare plants, animals, biochar, worm-farms etc.

Most of the functions that are needed for the permaculture movement today have been filled by enterprises such as Permaculture businesses and social media enterprises (google, facebook etc).
A few impressive tools have come out of community-based projects such as wikipedia, libre-office, farm-hack, TED (and other online communities)

The activities that have truly helped permaculture flourish in the last decade include:

  • the creation of large data-bases with records showing providence of teachers
  • standards for the Permaculture Design Course and Diploma courses,
  • networks for guilds,
  • good demonstration gardens and villages.
  • good marketing strategies,
  • promotion, funding, organising and facilitation of guest speakers, talk-tours etc
  • Information/resources including magazines, news articles and books
  • video clips, animation to document sucesses over time and how these came about.

Most of these functions would never have been able to be organised and funded by an independant centralised global Permaculture Association. Luckily, existing skilled business people have had their finger on the pulse and jumped in to build these assets.
But it is important that we remind permaculture businesses that there is more reward in their efforts than just money and power. They can become leader in world business practices by building good business ethics into their permaculture businesses.
Without business ethics a successful business quickly rises to become a powerful corporatehood. Corporations crush competitors by undercutting, restricting supply and flooding the market.
Corporate-hood has become a business phenomenoa recognised well in the USA with vocal, massive backlash from communities. Corporations in the USA have become so powerful that they have earnt almost equal rights as individuals. They certainly can afford better legal representation, and have the funds to campaign for the things that will make them bigger.
Bigger is not always better. In permaculture we talk about limits to growth as well as fair share and valuing diversity.
Good permaculture business practise

  • enables all the workers to obtain a local and enriching livie-hood,
  • shares excess by supporting other permaculture projects,
  • does not demand exclusivity at the cost of limiting a supplier to work elsewhere,
  • sets up systems that acknowledge the good work of others,
  • has marketing that is honest and fair (do your research before making bold claims of “being the biggest or the first or the only”)
  • reflects the ethics of permaculture
  • sets limits to growth
  • reinvests earnings in local people and environment
  • acknowledges we are all standing on the shoulders of giants and nurtures others to follow them by establishing honorable practices
  • holds the torch for sustainable [ISO14000] and ethical practices.
Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus
Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus

About the author:
April Sampson-Kelly began her main small permaculture business [permaculturevisions.com] in 1993, she presented a paper at the Perth International Permaculture Conference in 1996 to open discussion and help to infant businesses. She comes from a long line of women who have had their own businesses. She learnt how to run a business by listening to and joining in conversations around the kitchen table as a child. Her mother’s last business was as systems consultant and quality auditor. She learnt about systems whilst working part-time for her mother. She never borrows money nor seeks funding for a project. She demands that the income from a project be much more than just cash earnings. She invests in local suppliers, employs others casually and supports them in their own side ventures. She always starts small and sets limits so she can have a life outside that business and includes a succession plan.  She is presenting a paper on Art of Permaculture at the next national conference in Tasmania, then facilitating a think-tank at London IPCUK. She is also involved in “Next Big Step” Global permaculture group.

Growing Food Indoors

Even when the weather is wild outside, we can grow food indoors. Rooms that have some sunlight can have plants growing at the sill. Lots of yummy sprouts love the cozy indoors. Indoor plants also help improve air quality by trapping dust and toxins then releasing healthier air. Caring for plants also improves our mental well being. Best of all, a growing plant reminds of us of our our own need for natural light, when the plant is happy, the conditions are better for us too.

sprouts-in-window

Paulo Mellett Scholarship

This year we granted a full scholarship in honour of Paulo Mellett. The scholarship recipient is a recent migrant from Brazil who plans to better his life, his family’s health and share the experience  with gratitude.

Paulo Mellett helped translate our work at the International Permaculture Convergence in Cuba 2013 and has sadly passed away since.  We wish to celebrate his humble yet powerful influence and continue to bridge the gap between rich and poor, detached and sensitive cultures, dysfunctional and harmonious societies.

paulo-mellett-scholarship
In honour of Paulo Mellett we have created and awarded a full scholarship.

We aim to keep the memory of Paulo Mellett, his work and ambition alive through investing good will in others. Join us, pass on the good will in your own teaching and demonstration of sustainable living.

Credit: Sculpture by Herman A McNeil The Moqui Runner Chicago Museum of Art

 

Durable Beauty

Cordwood construction exercises patience. When we don’t wait for the timbers to fully dry before the installation they crack and let breezes through.  The binding materials also needs to dry very slowly to be strong and durable.  It even starts with an exercise in patience with the planning, sourcing of matching bottles, cutting the tops of pieces to fit and taping them top-to-top.

Patient planning, selection and preparation can create spectacular durable constructions.  Here is an excellent example from Kinstone Permaculture USA

cordwood-usa

Alley Cropping

Alley cropping along the contour lines and working with a keyline system is a highly productive, sustainable way to farm. Here is a shot from Mark Shephard’s co-operative farm, New Forest Farm in the Driftless region Southwestern Wisconsin, USA. The secret is the prune the roots regularly by running a deep blade-shaped plough in the pathway between the trees and perennial vegetable rows. This forces the roots to dive deep and not compete with the next row of crops.

alley-cropping
Alley cropping as demonstrated on New Forest Farm USA with Mark Shephard

 

 

Seek Not To Feed Your Plants, Feed Their Soil

feed-the-soil

The understanding of soils is valuable for all permaculture designers. We can design a permaculture system that works with and not against the nature of that particular soil-type. We can plan a succession of plants, reintroduce micro-organisms and cleansing plants and ultimately achieve higher productivity for the site using nature as our guide rather than importing mined resources (ie. phosphate, lime or minerals) to change the soil-type.

Understanding Our Web Of Life

In permaculture we seek to understand the web of life in our unique climate and bioregion.

web of life - diverse from the source to the sink.
A painting of a brook in New England 1863 web of life – diverse from the source to the sink.

From the initial source (sun, rain, wind, and animals) energy is diverted, used, released again and transferred from one element to another. Energy connects these elements. Their common use of energy forms a web of relationships. From the source to the sink (the place where the energy leaves the system):

  • Diversity increases
  • Energy stores increase
  • Organisational complexity increases

Design Hiding Places For Your Chickens

channel_billed_cuckoo

The chickens were SCREAMING. The Channel Billed Cuckoo was hovering with menace and so all the chickens run to hide under the bushes. In the permaculture garden there are lots of layers of vegetation, the smaller plants that enjoy living under fruit trees include Monstera Deliciosa, pineapple sage, hazelnut, native raspberry, orchids, begonia.

Chickens love hiding places.  You can see this Cuckoo has been feasting on our Mulberries. He was so fat and heavy that the branches of the trees were waving goodbye as he moved from tree to tree.

The Super Tree: The Mulberry

What Is There Not To Love
About Mulberries?

The dark colour advertises their high nutritional value, mulberriesthey make wonderful juice and food for us and the poultry, they resist most pests including fruit-fly. They also feed a multitude of native animals and reptiles.  Mulberry trees are hardy, able to  be shaped and easy to propagate.  The timber is suitable as fuel for heating the home, they make excellent shade in summer. In cooler climates, they drop their leaves to allow light into the picnic areas, home and garden.

mulberry-cheesecake
Mulberry Cheesecake. Gluten free base of sunflower seeds and dates, cheesecake layer, mulberry and agar gel on upper layer. Flower petals, lime leaves and coffee bean fruits on top for edible decoration. Permaculture Visions demonstration site. Cake by Shane Moon

Here is a scrumptious Mulberry Pancake by Ella Whyman:

mulberry-pancake
Mulberry Pancake, coconut cream and roasted shredded coconut by Ella Whyman

harriet

 

Unusual foods

Some of this weeks harvest contains unusual and beautiful foods. unusual-foods

There is an abundance of Mulberry (black and white varieties), flowers (begonia, sage, roses, bottlebrush, nasturtiums), choko sprouts, sweet potato (Kumara) leaves, banana leaves, watercress, grape leaves, peruvian ground apple, curry leaf, Kaffir lime, Jerusalem artichokes and much more.

 

Nutrient Dense Salads at Your Back Door

nutrient_rich_salad

Nutrient rich salad greens include bitter lettuce, and herbs.
The fresher the food, the higher the nutritional value.
Romaine Lettuce is one of the highest nutritional foods, it even contains high levels of protein. If we take these salads greens and fresh egg from happy hens, we can have a enriching lunch, and you get a few minutes outside in the fresh air reconnecting with nature instead of pushing a trolley in a supermarket or standing in a queue with hurried people!

Online Mentoring Triumphs Again

With very little support we were able to pioneer teaching online by putting the student needs first.

we found our niche and we are filling it!
we love our niche!

“One-on-one mentorship was long ago found to be dramatically more effective than group instruction. Having the full attention of an instructor accelerates an individual’s learning by focusing them on the right problems at the right times, and having a real relationship with one person provides students with accountability.”http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/11/the-mooc-revolution-that-wasnt/

When we began in 1993, we had a vision to help people in physically and socially remote situations. We aimed to focus on mentoring people in remote locations as much as helping working mothers. We have slowly built a student base in 60 countries and are very proud of our graduates.

“We’re all still searching for the right formula, but the ingredients will be the same as they’ve always been: Learning through exploration, thoughtfully designed for the right behaviors, with great teachers providing support.” http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/11/the-mooc-revolution-that-wasnt/

Permaculture Visions offers Learning through exploration by connecting participants with their broader community socially, physically and online. It constantly re-evaluates their Permaculture Course program and material for relevance and encouragement of beneficial behaviours that build a rewarding lifestyle and a cleaner planet. And it constantly aims to provide experience and personable teaching support through it’s basic goal of student-focused learning. We believe that there is never a wrong answer, perhaps just an answer that needs a bit more research.

All learning leads to a discovery of the truth. All learning invites us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs and connects us with the greater world.

Permaculture In A Big White Box

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Bigger Is Rarely Better

Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus
Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus

Setting limits to growth is essential to many systems that desire to be sustainable.
Rather than trying to rule the world, aim to rule your life. This is actually much trickier than we think.
Rather than governing a large organisation, step back.  Design and start a structure where the people who value the work can help build the network.  Then, participants can replicate this model on a smaller scale and feed directly into the system you wish envision.

Ageless Design

This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has travelled the world extensively. It has been used to promote courses and workshops in many countries.
This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has travelled the world extensively. It has been used to promote courses and workshops in many countries.

In about 1998 this design was made by our head tutor April Sampson-Kelly for an elderly couple in Callala bay NSW Australia. They had giant mounds of felled timber and didn’t know what to do with the mounds, so the design incorporated the mounds into hugelkulture, wind protection and these were used to build diversity of micro-climates. The mounds form dry beds in contrast to the swampy flats. Another unusual feature of this design is the removable dance floor built over the large cement tank and a mound rising beside it for seating and privacy. We often design to have ponds reflect light into the home and intensive keyhole beds on the sunny side of the home.

Ode to the Lemon

lemons you are beautiful,lemons
with little flaws each one of you is unique,
You shine brightly and long into the night your fragrance persists.
Your flowers look as good as they smell.
With leaves that are glossy and pert,
and a trunk that is strong, resilient and compact.
Lemon tree, you are the best friend any cook has ever had.
And yet, lemon, you are not phased by fame and good fortune,
Lemon you endured a long history, travelled the seas to far flung countries, pickled and preserved many other foods
You have saved sailors from death and disease and brought smiles to children.
Sadly, out of sweet’s spite, you were sometimes associated with bad things such as unfunctionable design and useless cars.
Lemon you will live as long as man remembers how to cook
and will always be remembered for your nutrition and aid in digestion.

 

Do What Truly Matters

reachEverybody does things.  Some have plans. A few sit and think about how they would like the future to be. Occasionally someone may design something new or talk of having a vision.

We all have feelings and passions and we all have ethics and values. Yet, very few of us put the feelings, passions, ethics and values first as a way to determine what to do next.

When we put our ethics and values first and work from this desire, when we listen to our passion and let ourselves be creative exploring ideas, dreaming of possibilities, then it is easy to make plans. We are empowered and every action that follows has purpose, brings us joy and peace to many others.

This is based on the teachings of Professor Stuart Hill and John Herron.

Apply To Work On Our Current Project

Permaculture Visions is offering a Diploma document and assessment  package for free in picture of cockatoo in our permaculture garden eating our macadamias - caught by surpriseexchange for someone working on their portal. You would need experience and skills in Word-press and a PDC.

The work that you spend on the portal will be free for the wider community, help many permaculture projects get recognition. It will help permaculture students around the world find online resources that are specific to a PDC and your work can be documented toward one of your units in your Diploma in Permaculture.

New Ideas Grow From Old Intentions

Permaculture is centered on the development of a rich and harmonious culture, building a resilient society and nurturing sustainable lifestyles. When we watch how nature turns loss and tragedy into new beginnings we can be inspired to the same. Nature is programmed to adapt, to adjust and to respond to change. By observing our impact, adapting to climate change and adjusting our methods, we can thrive.

old-intentions