IS PERMACULTURE THE SAME AS ORGANIC FARMING?
Permaculture is about optimising the use of water, wind, land and sun energies.
By mimicking natural processes, permaculture sets out from the assumption that all the energy available in a given location should be processed into produce without using any energy from external sources. It means, among others, that no fuels are used, and, consequently, no equipment, such as tractors. Moreover, by tailor-made design, permaculture creates a habitat which feeds and sustains itself. Obviously, labour is still being put in, but by designing each element multi-functionally, energy use is optimised. For example:
A duck provides meat and eggs, but also protects crops against snails.
An apple tree bears fruit, but also provides shade for shade-loving plants and protects chickens pasturing in the orchard against excessive sunshine.
A correctly designed pond serves farming of fish and edible plants, but also reflects the sunrays, which increases sun radiation and boosts growth of the surrounding trees.
A road connects points in the farm, but also harvests water into the pond.
A hedge shields against the wind, and with added edible plants attracts birds to feed, shed droppings and thus fertilise the hedge back.
A yellow balloon floating on the pond attracts grasshoppers, which sink into the pond and thus become fish food.
Rainwater captured at the top of the farm plot is used for gravity feed irrigation of plant beds.
Comfrey feeds nitrogen into the soil, provides shade, and, once mown, serves as ideal compost material. When planted along crop beds, it can be thrown upon them without prior composting.
The right flowers planted next to crop beds is where hoverflies lay eggs, and hoverfly larvae feed on aphids.
All these solutions optimise energy consumption and create an ecosystem of mutual benefits for people, plants, and animals.
THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING PERMACULTURE is the beneficial interactions among the system elements. There are millions, perhaps even billions of them – we couldn’t ever know. But what we can do is to design some of these interactions in line with Nature and observe if Nature accepts them. And this seems to be the primary difference in the respective approaches between ‘pure organic’ and permaculture. In organic farming, the sole premise is to grow healthy, nutritious foods, regardless of the cost – financial, environmental, or social – which may be immense. Forced pumping of water out of the ground, forced feeding with natural fertilisers which are frequently produced far away from the fertilised fields, hiring of cheap labour at harvest time: all the focus is on economic gain (and quality). In permaculture, such an approach is unacceptable, because permaculture balances both sides of the equation. It is not just about monetary profit, but about caring for the Earth, caring for human beings, and caring about fair distribution of the surplus. And all these factors must balance one another within one farm or village. Permaculture IS NOT a ‘cleverer’ kind of gardening, which uses hacks such as mulching or growing mutually supporting plants together. The best description of what permaculture is can be found here: https://permaculturenews.org/what-is-permaculture/.
ORGANIC (ECO) FARMING DISREGARDS ENERGY
Eco crops focus on production of biologically healthy foods, using natural fertilisers and ancient non-GMO seeds. It uses unadulterated water, composting and plant mulching with natural methods only. But this is where ecology ends. For organic farming, it does not matter where the water comes from, how and where the produce is transported, and energy or labour consumption are inputs only into a financial profit and loss account.