Permaculture is not something new, but it may be something unfamiliar to a lot of people. In 1929, Joseph Russell Smith wrote a book, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture in which he wrote about his experimentation with fruits and nuts as crops for human food and animal feed. He viewed the world as an inter-related whole and suggested mixed systems of trees and crops underneath. This concept of making agriculture more sustainable was embraced by others n the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, as well as today.
According to Wikipedia, there are three core principles of permaculture: Care for the earth; Care for the people; Return of surplus. The theory behind permaculture includes 12 design principles, and Layers are one of the tools used to design functional ecosystems that are both sustainable and of direct benefit to humans. There are generally seven recognized layers in a food forest:
- The canopy: the tallest trees in the system, which dominate the area, but do not saturate it.
- Understory Layer: trees that revel in the dappled light under the canopy.
- Shrub Layer: a diverse layer of woody perennials of limited height – includes most berry bushes.
- Herbaceous Layer: plants in this layer die back to the ground every winter if it’s cold enough. Many beneficial plants such as annuals, biennials, perennials; culinary and medicinal herbs are in this layer.
- Soil surface/Groundcover: some overlap with layer 4, however plants in this layer grow much closer to the ground, grow densely to fill bare patches of soil, and can often tolerate some foot traffic. These cover crops retain soil and lessen erosion, along with green manures that add nutrients and organic matter (especially nitrogen) to the soil.
- Rhizosphere: Root layers within the soil that include root crops such as potatoes and other edible tubers, fungi, insects, nematodes, worms, etc.
- Vertical Layer: climbers or vines such as runner beans and lima beans.
There are many other terms and processes associated with permaculture. In a nutshell, its focus is on using waste and reducing dependence on inputs. It uses natural energies like wind, dust, leaves, and bird droppings. It provides nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds. Below you’ll find a short video about Ron Bigelow, a farmer from Auburn Washington who practices permaculture. He collects the spoiled food from a local market which he puts pack into the soil and uses to feed his livestock. Ron does one extra thing, however. He creates artwork as a way of raising food waste awareness in the hopes that someone someday will come up with solutions.
-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team