Permaculture Part III

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This is the last of a three part blog post on the introduction and direction of how permaculture became an integral part of the advancement of human life.  Starting around 10,000 years ago, we as a human race started to cultivate wild plants, turning them into viable sources of food and medicine.  This lasted all the way through the early 1940’s in the USA, ending with the Victory Gardens.  Americans grew up to 70% of their own food while most of the work force was away fighting in WWII.  Shorty after this, the advent of big agriculture quickly dismantled thousands of years of seed saving, plant propagation, and food traditions through what they called the “Green Revolution”.   This lead to catastrophic consequences.

We now live in a world where straying away from our ancient agricultural practices has lead to dire circumstances.  Right now 70% of all Americans are considered to be overweight or obese.  The change in diet, lead by big ag/pharma, has almost completely replaced the way we eat.  Instead of eating fresh foods that come straight from our backyards nourishing our bodies, we now eat GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)  foods laced with up to 22 different chemicals, coming from thousands of miles away.  These chemicals are wreaking havoc on bodies, esp. children, whom are more sensitive to such foreign chemicals.  The health costs that follow these diets is also detrimental, equating to almost 18% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product).  There are so many ways we can save ourselves from this freight train speeding to the edge of the cliff.

Growing food has been making somewhat of a comeback.  In recent years garden/seed supply sales have risen substantially, but no where near the mark to balance the amount of food coming out of the Midwest and California.  Only .7% of all land under cultivation in the USA is grown organically. (yes you read that right).  There are other hidden costs from humans straying away from permaculture, such as:  pollution costs, food not being as fresh/healthy, and a disconnect from nature, just to name a few. In a study published in Environmental Management in 2005, researchers estimated that there are 40 million acres of turf grass in the USA.  Humans have a choice right now to either continue on a path of destruction, with the data to prove, that will not lead to a sustainable future or we can choose to set upon a healthier path incorporating the systems of permaculture in our yards.  If we so choose to replace the grass that we painstakingly care for with fruit trees, berry plants, and medicinal herbs, we can change the course of our fate on the earth.

So many people have asked me during my career as a farmer: “What can I do to change all this?”  I simply reply that if you have the space plant a 10’x10′ garden, start there.  A garden of this size can provide you with over 200 pounds of food equating to almost $1000.  Think about the savings from your wallet, pollution, packaging waste, health, and not to mention that it tastes better. From there learn to take care of a few fruit trees or berry plants. With little maintenance these plants just come back year to year. An herb garden also requires very little care, planting things like mint, lavender, or lemon balm, which can all be used in things like tea or even to cook with.  If you’re business savvy start a permaculture landscaping company replacing all those ornamental bushes and trees with nourishing food sources instead.  If we just converted 1 million acres of lawn to permaculture that would equal to literally trillions of pounds of food being grown by ourselves.  This is a viable solution that would help in so many aspects to the problems that our civilization currently faces.

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