Permaculture FAQ 1.3
The Permaculture FAQ
The Permaculture FAQ (1.3) is divided into 7 parts:
1. Introduction to permaculture
2. Permaculture defined
3. Characteristics of permaculture
4. The practical application of permaculuture
5. Permaculture resources:
Around the World
6. Books on permaculture
7. Electronic sources
INTRODUCTION TO PERMACULTURE
The word "permaculture" was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an
Australian ecologist, and his student, David Holmgren. It is a
contraction of "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture."
Permaculture is about designing ecological human habitats and
food production systems. It is an approach to land use which
integrates human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial
plants, animals, soils, and water management into stable,
A central theme in permaculture is the design of ecological
landscapes that produce food. Emphasis is placed on multi-use
plants and the integration of animals to recycle nutrients and
graze weeds. However, permaculture entails much more than just
food production. Permaculture design concepts are being applied
in urban as well as rural settings, and are applicable to single
households or whole farms and villages.
"Integrated farming" and "ecological engineering" are terms
sometimes used to describe permaculture. Though helpful, these
terms do not capture the holistic nature of permaculture and thus
the following definitions are included to provide insight.
1. From the Permaculture Drylands Institute and published in
THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST (Autumn 1989):
Permaculture: the use of ecology as the basis for
designing integrated systems of food production,
housing, appropriate technology, and community
development. Permaculture is built upon an ethic of
caring for the earth and interacting with the
environment in mutually beneficial ways...
2. From Lee Barnes (editor of KATUAH JOURNAL and PERMACULTURE
CONNECTIONS), Waynesville, North Carolina:
Permaculture (PERMAnent agriCULTURE or PERMAnent CULTURE) is
a sustainable design system stressing the harmonious
interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth.
To paraphrase the founder of permaculture, designer
"Permaculture principles focus on thoughtful designs
for small-scale intensive systems which are labor
efficient and which use biological resources instead of
fossil fuels. Designs stress ecological connections and
closed energy and material loops. The core of
permaculture is design and the working relationships
and connections between all things. Each component in a
system performs multiple functions, and each function
is supported by many elements. Key to efficient design
is observation and replication of natural ecosystems,
where designers maximize diversity with polycultures,
stress efficient energy planning for houses and
settlement, using and accelerating natural plant
succession, and increasing the highly productive
"edge-zones" within the system."
Permaculture designs have been successfully and widely
implemented in third-world countries, but there is current
need to expand these principles in temperate climates, and
especially urban areas to create more enjoyable and
sustainable human habitats.
3. From Michael Pilarksi, founder of Friends of the Trees, and
published in INTERNATIONAL GREEN FRONT REPORT (1988):
Permaculture is: the design of land use systems that are
sustainable and environmentally sound; the design of
culturally appropriate systems which lead to social
stability; a design system characterized by an integrated
application of ecological principles in land use; an
international movement for land use planning and design; an
ethical system stressing positivism and cooperation.
In the broadest sense, permaculture refers to land use
systems which promote stability in society, utilize
resources in a sustainable way and preserve wildlife
habitat and the genetic diversity of wild and domestic
plants and animals. It is a synthesis of ecology and
geography, of observation and design. Permaculture
involves ethics of earth care because the sustainable use of
land cannot be separated from life-styles and philosophical
4. From a Bay Area Permaculture Group brochure, published in
WEST COAST PERMACULTURE NEWS & GOSSIP AND SUSTAINABLE LIVING
NEWSLETTER (Fall 1995):
Permaculture is a practical concept which can be applied in
the city, on the farm, and in the wilderness. Its
principles empower people to establish highly productive
environments providing for food, energy, shelter, and other
material and non-material needs, including economic.
Carefully observing natural patterns characteristic of a
particular site, the permaculture designer gradually
discerns optimal methods for integrating water catchment,
human shelter, and energy systems with tree crops, edible
and useful perennial plants, domestic and wild animals and
Permaculture adopts techniques and principles from ecology,
appropriate technology, sustainable agriculture, and the
wisdom of indigenous peoples. The ethical basis of
permaculture rests upon care of the earth--maintaining a
system in which all life can thrive. This includes human
access to resources and provisions, but not the accumulation
of wealth, power, or land beyond their needs.
CHARACTERISTICS OF PERMACULTURE (*)
* Permaculture is one of the most holistic, integrated systems
analysis and design methodologies found in the world.
* Permaculture can be applied to create productive ecosystems
from the human-use standpoint or to help degraded
ecosystems recover health and wildness. Permaculture can be
applied in any ecosystem no matter how degraded.
* Permaculture values and validates traditional knowledge and
experience. Permaculture incorporates sustainable
agriculture practices and land management techniques and
strategies from around the world. Permaculture is a bridge
between traditional cultures and emergent earth-tuned
* Permaculture promotes organic agriculture which does not use
pesticides to pollute the environment.
* Permaculture aims to maximize symbiotic and synergistic
relationships between site components.
* Permaculture is urban planning as well as rural land design.
* Permaculture design is site specific, client specific, and
(*) Source: Pilarski, Michael (ed.) 1994. Restoration Forestry.
Kivaki Press, Durango, CO. p. 450.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION of PERMACULTURE
Permaculture is not limited to just plant and animal agriculture,
but also includes community planning and development, use of
appropriate technologies (coupled with an adjustment of life-
style), and adoption of concepts and philosophies that are both
earth-based and people-centered, such as bio-regionalism.
Many of the appropriate technologies advocated by permaculturists
are well-known. Among these are solar and wind power, composting
toilets, solar greenhouses, energy efficient housing, and solar
food cooking and drying.
Due to the inherent sustainability of perennial cropping systems,
permaculture places a heavy emphasis on tree crops. Systems that
integrate annual and perennial crops such as alleycropping and
agroforestry take advantage of "the edge effect", increase
biological diversity, and offer other characteristics missing in
monoculture systems. Thus, multicropping systems that
blend woody perennials and annuals hold promise as viable
techniques for large-scale farming. Ecological methods of
production for any specific crop or farming system are central to
permaculture as well as sustainable agriculture in general.
Since permaculture is not a production system, per se, but rather
a land use planning philosophy, it is not limited to a specific
method of production. Furthermore, as permaculture principles
may be adapted to farms or villages worldwide, it is site
specific and therefore amenable to locally adapted techniques of
As an example, standard organic farming and gardening techniques
utilizing cover crops, green manures, crop rotation, and mulches
are emphasized in permacultural systems. Yet, the use of
the Keyline chisel plow, rotational grazing, the Aerway implement
in no-till farming, and a whole number of other techniques are
adaptable to farms working within a permacultural framework.
The decision as to which "system" is employed is site-specific
and management dependent.
Farming systems and techniques commonly associated with
permaculture include rotational grazing, agroforestry, swales,
contour plantings, the Keyline method (soil and water
management), hedgerows and windbreaks, and integrated farming
systems such as aquaculture, intercropping, and polyculture.
Gardening and recycling methods common to permaculture include
edible landscaping, keyhole gardening, companion planting,
trellising, sheet mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses,
spiral herb gardens, swales, and vermicomposting.
Water collection, management, and re-use systems like Keyline,
greywater, rain catchment, constructed wetlands, aquaponics (the
integration of hydroponics with recirculating aquaculture),
and solar aquatic ponds (also known as Living Machines) play an
important role in permaculture designs.
The two basic sources of information on permaculture are
permaculture design courses and permaculture literature.
The Permaculture Design Course is the primary vehicle for
transfer of permaculture expertise. The standard course is
72-hours in length and lasts two weeks. Graduates are
issued a permaculture design certificate and are entitled to use
"Permaculture" in the pursuit of livelihood and for educational
The permaculture literature is a rich source of information on a
wide range of topics dealing with land use, plant and animal
agriculture, water management, appropriate technology,
energy-efficient and toxic-free housing, and community design.
Permaculture Resources in the United States
THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST
Black Mountain, NC 28711
Editor: Peter Bane
Cost: $16, quarterly
THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST is the leading periodical for
North American permaculture. It publishes articles
on permaculture, edible landscaping, bioregionalism,
aquaculture, etc, and provides a current listing of
upcoming permaculture design courses. It serves as an
important networking tool in the U.S., Canada, and
Central America. Back issues are available for sale.
THE INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE SOLUTIONS JOURNAL (TIPS)
Yankee Permaculture, Elfin Permaculture, and Forest Ecosystem
Rescue Network (FERN)
P.O. Box 672
Dahlonega, GA 30533-0672
Editor: Dan Hemenway
Cost: $27.50 for four issues
THE INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE SOLUTIONS JOURNAL (TIPS) is
published on an irregular basis, but is a rich source of
information. Prior to TIPS, Yankee Permaculture put out a
fantastic yearbook called THE INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE
SPECIES YEARBOOK (TIPSY). The TIPSY series is a goldmine
of permaculture information; much of the information is
still quite useful. FERN publishes a permaculture
newsletter called ROBIN that deals with forest issues.
Yankee Permaculture also publishes THE RESOURCES OF
INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE - TRIP. Volume 5 of TRIP,
published in 1993, is a 68-page issue that contains 1,540
listings of groups working in permaculture, sustainable
food systems, and tree-based agriculture.
Friends of the Trees
P. O. Box 4469
Bellingham, WA 98227
Editor: Michael Pilarski
RESTORATION FORESTRY: AN INTERNATIONAL GUIDE TO SUSTAINABLE
FORESTRY PRACTICES (1994) is a 525-page guide to resources
in restoration forestry. It contains over 50 review articles,
780 organizations, 230 journals/periodicals, 800 books, 100
restoration forestry projects underway, and 100 directories on
topics relating to restoration forestry, forest ecology, tree
seedlings, bioregionalism, and permaculture. It is a massive
addition to tree-based agricultural literature. Cost is $27,
plus $4 handling.
Other publications from Friends of the Trees include the
INTERNATIONAL GREEN FRONT REPORT (1988, $7.00);
KIWIFRUIT ENTHUSIASTS JOURNAL (Vol. 6, $17.20); and THIRD
WORLD RESOURCE GUIDE (1993, $5.00) and the WEST COAST
PERMACULTURE NEWS & GOSSIP NEWSLETTER.
Travelers Earth Repair Network (TERN) is a database
maintained by Friends of the Trees containing over 2,500
permaculture contacts in 100-plus countries. The aim is to
link travelers with individuals and organizations
involved in sustainable agriculture, forestry, permaculture,
and ecological restoration. There is a $50 fee to access
the TERN database. Hosts are listed free of charge.
PERMACULTURE DRYLANDS JOURNAL
Permaculture Drylands Institute
P.O. Box 156
Santa Fe, NM 87504-0156
Cost: $25, 3 issues per year
PERMACULTURE DRYLANDS JOURNAL (formerly SUSTAINABLE LIVING
IN DRYLANDS) is published in April, August, and
December by the Permaculture Drylands Education and Research
Institute. It focuses on permaculture concepts and designs
for arid lands, with a heavy focus on New Mexico and
Arizona. PDJ has published articles on straw bale
buildings, solar box cookers, dryland farming, and much
more; back issues are available. PDI offers a regular
series of Permaculture Design Courses.
580 Broadway, Suite 200
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Cost: $20, 4 issues
EARTHWORD JOURNAL is a glossy permaculture magazine published
collaboratively by Eos Institute and the Permaculture Institute
of Southern California. It explores the ecological interface
between urban and rural communities and is geared to the
professional designer, architect, and land-use planner. Issue
No. 6 was published in January 1996.
TEMPERATE BAMBOO QUARTERLY
Earth Advocates Research Facility
30 Myers Road
Summertown, TN 38483
Cost: $24, quarterly
TEMPERATE BAMBOO QUARTERLY is a quarterly publication from
Earth Advocates, a permaculture team run by Sue and Adam
Turtle. It focuses on the bamboo plant which has unique,
multi-purpose uses. They also operate a nursery with dozens
of bamboo species.
P.O. Box 65
56 Farmersville Rd
Califon, N.J. 07830
Educational publisher and distributor of permaculture
resources and publications.
P.O. Box 2008
Davis, CA 95616
agAccess, primarily a mailorder bookstore but also a
publishing company and for-profit information service,
carries one of the largest selections of agricultural
literature in North America. They specialize in
sustainable agriculture and related resources.
Permaculture Resources in Australia
PERMACULTURE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL
Permaculture International Ltd.
P.O. Box PG6039
South Lismore, NSW 2480
Phone: (066) 220 020
International: (066) 220 579
Cost: U.S. $24, quarterly
**Available in the U.S. through THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST**
PIJ serves as the leading periodical for permaculture
worldwide. It contains articles, book reviews, and news of
permacultural events around the world. It serves as an
important networking tool. Back issues to the early 1980s
are available for sale.
THE PERMACULTURE EDGE
Permaculture Nambour, Inc.
P.O. Box 148
Cost: U.S. $20, quarterly
**Available in the U.S. through THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST**
THE PERMACULTURE EDGE aims to report activities that are seen
to be at the cutting edge of permaculture developments around
the world. The "permaculture edge" refers to the "edge effect"
found at the boundaries of two ecological systems where there is
more synergism, biological activity, and variations in the
microenvironment and which can be used to increase yields in
designed systems. It also points to permaculture ideas as being
"at the edge" of a change in the push towards a sustainable
International Permaculture Institute
P.O. Box 1
Tyalgum, NSW 2484
Phone: (066) 793 442
The International Permaculture Institute in Tyalgum,
Australia, serves as the international coordinating
organization for permaculture activities such as
permaculture design accreditation.
Permaculture Resources Around the World
PERMACULTURE MAGAZINE UK: ECOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS FOR EVERYDAY LIFE
Hyden House Limited
Little Hyden Lane
Clandfield, Hampshire PO8 ORU
Cost: U.S. $24, quarterly
**Available in the U.S. through THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST**
A quarterly journal published in cooperation with the
Permaculture Association of Great Britain. It contains
articles, book reviews, and solutions from Britain and
Europe. A good source for temperate agroforestry species
and permaculture design projects.
Permaculture Association of Zimbabwe
Box CY 301
Telephone/Fax: (+4) 726911
Cost: U.S. $30, per year
PERMACULTURE INDIA NEWSLETTER and ECOLOGICAL VISIONS
Earthcare Books c/o Classic Books
10 Middleton St.
Calcutta 700 071
Books on Permaculture
INTRODUCTION TO PERMACULTURE by Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay.
1991. Tagari Publishers, Tyalgum, Australia. 198 p.
PERMACULTURE ONE: A PERENNIAL AGRICULTURE FOR HUMAN SETTLEMENTS,
3rd ed (Reprint of 1978 ed) by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.
1987. Tagari Publishers, Tyalgum, New South Wales, Australia.
PERMACULTURE TWO: A PRACTICAL DESIGN FOR TOWN AND COUNTRY IN
PERMANENT AGRICULTURE by Bill Mollison. 1979. Tagari Press,
Stanley, Australia. 150 p.
PERMACULTURE: A DESIGNER'S MANUAL by Bill Mollison. 1988.
Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, Australia. 576 p.
THE BEST OF PERMACULTURE by Max O. Lindegger and Robert Tap.
1986. Nascimanere Publishers, Nambour, Australia. 136 p.
THE PERMACULTURE WAY: PRACTICAL WAYS TO CREATE A SELF-SUSTAINING
WORLD by Graham Bell. 1992. Thorsons, London. 239 p.
THE PERMACULTURE GARDEN by Graham Bell. 1994. Thorsons, London.
URBAN PERMACULTURE by David Watkins. 1993. Permanent
Publications, U.K. 152 p.
PERMACULTURE IN A NUTSHELL by Patrick Whitefield. 1993.
Permanent Publications, U.K. 75 p.
EARTH USER'S GUIDE TO PERMACULTURE by Rosemary Morrow and Rob
Allsop. 1994. Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW Australia. 152 p.
GETTING STARTED IN PERMACULTURE by Ross and Jennifer Mars. 1995.
Candlelight Trust, Hovea, Western Australia. 60 p.
A FEW GOOD BOOKS for the PERMACULTURIST'S BOOKSHELF
CORNUCOPIA: A SOURCE BOOK OF EDIBLE PLANTS by Stephen Facciola.
1990. Kampong Publications, Vista, CA. 678 p.
DESIGNING & MAINTAINING YOUR EDIBLE LANDSCAPE NATURALLY by Robert
Kourick. 1986. Metamorphic Press, Santa Rosa, CA. 370 p.
TREE CROPS: A PERMANENT AGRICULTURE by J. Russell Smith. 1987.
Island Press, Washington, D.C. 408 p.
THE PERMACULTURE BOOK OF FERMENT & HUMAN NUTRITION by Bill
Mollison. 1993. Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, Australia.
ELECTRONIC SOURCES OF PERMACULTURE INFORMATION
1. Permaculture-Mg Internet Discussion List in the United
To subscribe, send email to "firstname.lastname@example.org"
with SUBSCRIBE PERMACULTURE-MG YOUR NAME in the body of
2. Permaculture Discussion List in Western Australia
To subscribe, send email to "email@example.com"
with SUBSCRIBE PERMA YOUR NAME in the body of email
3. Organic Gardening & Permaculture Information
4. Permaculture Guide at Communications for a Sustainable
5. Permaculture International Journal (Australia)
6. International Permaculture Institute (Australia)
7. Permaculture Global Assistance Network (Australia)
8. Permaculture in Western Australia
9. Permaculture in South Australia - "What's Happening in
10. Correspondence Course on Permaculture (Australia)
11. Permaculture Visions International's Correspondence Course
12. British Permaculture Magazine/Permanent Publications Web
13. PermaWeb in Great Britain
14. Permaculture Association (Britain)
15. Bay Area Permaculture Group
16. Permaculture Institute of Northern California
17. Friends of the Trees
18. Cross Timbers Permaculture Institute in Texas
19. Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute
20. Permaculture on "Mind*Body*Spirit" (South Africa)
21. Permaculture on Carmela's Home Page
22. Plants for a Future On-Line
23. Institute for Bioregional Studies
24. EcoVillage Information Service
25. Crystal Waters Permaculture Village
26. The Farm EcoVillage Training Center
27. Intentional Communities on the Web
31. Permaculture FAQ on the Web
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The Permaculture FAQ was compiled by Steve Diver(*) for the
permaculture-mg mailing list
Send updates, comments, and corrections to:
(*) Permaculture Design Course graduate, Michaela
Farm/Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana
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