Permaculture Day 5

What is permaculture?

Permaculture – a way to live with integrity on the Earth and with each other. Conscious living that leaves the Earth in better shape than when we started.

Illinois has some of the most fertile land in the world and 97% of their food is imported from other states and countries. The corn and soybeans grown go to high fructose corn syrup, various food and industrial ingredients and oils

Industrial farming is subsidized so we don’t pay the true price for food in the supermarket.  Local farmers can’t compete to survive and vegetable growing is not profitable. People are unwilling to pay $4 per pound for tomatoes at the local farmers market when they can get them at grocery store imported from Mexico for $2.  Somehow we must tell the story of local food and its importance to our community.

Why can’t people see the relationship between food security and national security?  Why does no one notice the food dollars lost in a community to imported food?   Our communities have about 2 weeks of food stored in supermarkets.  If transportation were disrupted (oil) how long could you survive without the supermarket?

Why are these the same questions I asked in 1974?

 Vegetable growers need to focus on unusual crops and partner with chefs. We must support local farmers with our food dollars.  But in a cold climate what do we do six months of the year?  We can’t buy local in the summer and then suddenly turn to imported food in winter.  We must get the greenhouse/hoophouse business going with cold tolerant crops and experimenting with hybrids bred to grow cold.

Aquaculture and aquaponics are one of the fastest growing segments of US agriculture.  US demand for fish and seafood has increased dramatically over the last twenty years while the availability of wild caught fish has declined due to over fishing and pollution. Fish imports from China have increased over 200% during this time to supply the demand .Fish farms are industrial farming at sea and create pollution and induce antibiotic requiring diseases.  Fish are a good choice for urban farmers as they are relatively easy to raise and take less space and food per pound of protein than most other animals. 

In Thailand I noticed they raised a lot of guinea pigs. Rabbits are a good choice fr urban farms.  If I had to kill and process animals I would eat less meat. Then again I might appreciate them more and they would taste better….   

There’s just no way around it we have to feed ourselves.  

Person of interest – Novella Carpenter wrote a book called Farm City about her experiences as a true urban farmer in west Oakland, California (Youtube video)  Her inner city neighborhood is a food desert with blocks of abandoned buildings and only liquor stores, no food.  Novella took over (squatted) some lots to grow food and her farm eventually grew to include goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and for awhile, pigs. While all this was illegal in Oakland, Novella says she took advantage of the ‘general anarchy’ of the neighborhood to carry on with her illegal food producing activities for the community.  After all, the police had much bigger problems to tend to….

Urban farming as a form of anarchy is a really weird and wonderful concept.  

We also talked about various building methods for sustainable housing.  We looked at people building houses out of cobb and other natural materials.  People building very small homes and building homes out of waste materials and living mortgage free. People heating their homes with rocket stoves requiring small pieces of wood, rather than logs, fuel that can be grown by coppicing and pollarding trees every year for a renewable supply.  Hello Boxelder and buckthorn!

I may not be able to convince my hubby to build a strawbale home but I might be able to talk him into a cobb outdoor oven or perhaps a wall (since most of  our wooden fence was recently torn down by a tree or just rotted away)

Funny thing is if we want to retire in a few years we may only be able to afford a cobb home since we lost so much equity in the real estate crash! 

I so much appreciate permaculture which passively resists the status quo from growing food, to energy use, to fashion, to housing, to building community and relationships. It encompasses everything I’ve been studying for thirty years. It is the ‘agroforestry’ I studied twenty years ago in Davis, CA.  

I love the diverse people I’ve met here and especially the young people.  They are following their own heart early, in such an unusual direction.  They certainly aren’t sitting around watching video games or trolling the mall.  They are farmers and community gardeners, vegans and protestors, camping this whole week, and some, dumpster diving for food.  They are so free and strong and admirable.

We have been talking a lot about the importance of relationships in permaculture.  The relationship of everything in the natural environment – sun, wind, water, slope, soil, plant guilds, animals, but also people. We must not neglect the ‘community’  part of community gardens.  We are in relationship with Mother Earth and all the plants, animals and microbes on it.  We are in relationship with one another on this Earth.  Tending and healing our own spiritual and mental health heals relationships, which heals the Earth.  We may not be able to do anything about the people around us, the ones we have to interact with every day.  The one thing we can do is heal ourselves and our reactions.  I am here but a second in geological time on this beautiful blue ball we call Mother Earth! Don’t waste any of it on worry or drama!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Permaculture Day 5

  1. Kim Harry

    I love all the zone 5 grower posts, but this has to be one of my favorites. It’s filled with words of wisdom from Kate! I laughed at your thoughts about “urban farming as a form of anarchy is a really weird and wonderful concept” and your “hello boxelder and buchthorn” but was also inspried about what you had to say about not wasting time on worry or drama and about healing our relationships which heals the Earth. Take care!

    • zone5grower

      Thank you for taking time to comment Kim! I can’t tell you how much i appreciate it! Hope to see you this fall in class Kate

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