PERMACULTURE FAQ Version 1.0
* This Permaculture FAQ is divided into two parts:
(1) introduction to permaculture, and (2) permaculture
* This FAQ was drafted for the permaculture-mg list
INTRODUCTION TO PERMACULTURE
The word "permaculture" was coined in 1978 by two Australians,
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and is a contraction of "permanent
agriculture" or "permanent agriculture."
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, productive
1. From Michael Pilarksi (Friends of the Trees) 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 issues.
2. From Lee Barnes (Katuah Journal and Permaculture Connections),
Waynesville, North Carolina:
Permaculture ("Perm"anent "agri"culture and "Perma"nent "culture")
is a sustainable design system stressing the harmonious
interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth. To
paraphrase the founder of Permaculture, designer Bill Mollison:
"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.
A central theme in permaculture is the design of ecological
landscapes that produce food. Permaculture design concepts may be
applied to single households or whole farms and villages. A major
emphasis is placed on use of food-producing plants and in the
integration of animals into the landscape.
Permaculture is not limited to just plant and animal agriculture.
It 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 permaculturalists
are well-known. Among these are solar and wind power, composting
toilets, and solar food cooking and drying. Information on renewable
technologies such as these is available from a number of other
Due to the inherent sustainability of perennial cropping systems,
permaculture places emphasis on tree crops. Thus, alleycropping and
agroforestry systems appear to hold promise as viable techniques for
large-scale farming. Ecological methods of production for any specific
crop or farming system are, of course, vital to permaculture and
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 production.
As an example, standard organic farming and gardening techniques
utilizing crop rotations, cover crops, green manures, composts,
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" to
go with is site-specific and management dependent.
Farming systems and methods often associated with permaculture include
edible landscaping, Keyline, agroforestry, keyhold gardening, sheet
mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses, vermicomposting, spiral
herb gardens, swales, and intercropping. Water collection and management
systems like greywater, rain catchment, and Keyline play an important
role in land use designs.
Permaculture is not about prescription farming, it's about
designing ecological landscapes that integrate farming and other
human activities into ecosystems with productive results yet
minimal disturbance. Permaculture advocates farm ecology, not
Sources of Information
The two basic sources of information on permaculture are
permaculture design courses and the permaculture literature.
Permaculture design courses are 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 purposes.
The permaculture literature is a rich source of information on a
wide range of topics dealing with appropriate technology,
water management, land use, housing, and plant and animal agriculture.
THE PERMACULTURE INSTITUTE
The Permaculture Institute in Tyalgum, Australia, serves as the
coordinating organization for permaculture activities such as
permaculture design accreditation. Contact:
P.O. Box 1
Tyalgum, NSW 2484
Phone: (066) 793 442
PERMACULTURE RESOURCES IN THE UNITED STATES:
THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST
Contact: Peter Bane
Black Mountain, NC 28711
Cost: $16.00, quarterly
THE PERMACULTURE ACTIVIST is the leading periodical for
North American permaculture. In addition to articles on
permaculture, edible landscaping, bioregionalism, etc., it
also lists permaculture design courses and serves as an
important networking tool in the U.S., Canada, and Central
THE INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE SOLUTIONS JOURNAL (TIPS)
Yankee Permaculture/Elfin Permaculture, and
Forest Ecosystem Rescue Network (FERN)
Contact: Dan Hemenway
P.O. Box 672
Dahlonega, GA 30533-0672
Cost: $27.50/four issues
TIPS is published on a sporadic basis. A yearbook
called THE INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE SPECIES YEARBOOK
(TIPSY) was the format prior to TIPS. The TIPSY
series is a goldmine of permaculture information and
resources; most notable are several lists of plants and
their uses. Back issues are still available.
FERN publishes a permaculture newsletter called ROBIN, which is
concerned mainly 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
Contact: Michael Pilarski
P. O. Box 4469
Bellingham, WA 98227
RESTORATION FORESTRY (1994) is a 525-page International
Guide to Sustainable Forestry Practices. It is rich
with ideas, practices, and resources.
Other key publications from Friends of the Trees include the
THE INTERNATIONAL GREEN FRONT REPORT (1988, $7.00),
KIWIFRUIT ENTHUSIASTS JOURNAL (Vol. 6, $17.20) and THIRD
WORLD RESOURCES (1993, $5.00). Friends of the Trees Society also
publishes a newsletter.
SUSTAINABLE LIVING IN DRYLANDS (SLID)
Permaculture Drylands Institute
Contact: Scott Pittman
P.O. Box 27371
Tucson, AZ 85726
Cost: $12.00, quarterly
SLID is a newsletter/journal focusing on permaculture concepts
and designs for arid lands. SLID has published articles on straw
bale buildings, solar box cookers, and dryland farming.
TEMPERATE BAMBOO QUARTERLY
30 Myers Road
Summertown, TN 38483
TEMPERATE BAMBOO QUARTERLY is a new publication from Earth Advocates,
a permaculture team run by Sue and Adam Turtle. It focuses on the
bamboo plant which has unique, important multi-purpose uses.
PERMACULTURE RESOURCES IN AUSTALIA:
INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE JOURNAL
Permaculture International Ltd.
P.O. Box 7185
Lismore Heights, NSW 2480
Phone: (066) 220 020
Cost: U.S. $20.00/quarterly
Note: subscribers in the U.S. can send their payment to THE
The INTERNATIONAL PERMACULTURE JOURNAL serves as the leading
periodical for permaculture worldwide. Each issue contains informative
articles as well as news of permacultural events in Australia, the
U.S., and other places around the world. It serves as an important
networking tool. Back issues to the early 1980s are available.
THE PERMACULTURE EDGE
Permaculture Nambour, Inc.
P.O. Box 650
Nambour, Queensland 4560
Phone: (074) 943 955
Cost: U.S. $20.00, quarterly.
Note: subscribers in the U.S. can send their payment to THE
THE PERMACULTURE EDGE is a new quarterly publication from Australia.
The "permaculture edge" refers to the "edge effect" that 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
toward a sustainable future.
BASIC PERMACULTURE LITERATURE:
THE BEST OF PERMACULTURE. By Max O. Lindegger and Robert Tap.
1986. Nascimanere Publishers, Nambour, Australia. 136 p.
PERMACULTURE ONE: A PERENNIAL AGRICULTURE FOR HUMAN
SETTLEMENTS, 3rd ed. By Bill C. Mollison and David Holmgren. 1987.
(Reprint of 1978 ed.) Tagari Publishers, Tyalgum, New South Wales,
Australia. 127 p.
PERMACULTURE TWO: A PRACTICAL DESIGN FOR TOWN AND COUNTRY IN
PERMANENT AGRICULTURE. By Bill C. Mollison. 1979.
Tagari Press, Stanley, Australia. 150 p.
PERMACULTURE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.
By Bill C. Mollison. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 579 p.
INTRODUCTION TO PERMACULTURE. 1991. By Bill C. Mollison and
Reny Mia Slay. Tagari Publishers, Tyalgum, Australia. 198 p.
THE PERMACULTURIST'S BOOKSHELF
TREE CROPS: A PERMACNENT AGRICULTURE. By J. Russell Smith. 1987.
408 p. Costs about: $20.00
CORNUCOPIA: A SOURCE BOOK OF EDIBLE PLANTS. By Stephen Facciola.
1990. 678 p. Costs about: $35.00
DESIGNING & MAINTAINING YOUR EDIBLE LANDSCAPE NATURALLY. By
Robert Kourick. 1986. 370 p. Costs about: $20.00
* Compiled by Steve Diver
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