What is permaculture?

Permaculture is a design process, based in observation and systems thinking, that helps people to create ecologically and socially sustainable human settlements beneficial to the people and to the ecosystems within which they are nested.

The word Permaculture is a contraction of permanent agriculture and permanent culture, as cultures cannot survive long without a sustainable agricultural base and land use ethic.

The aim is to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically viable that provide for their own needs and do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term. Permaculture uses inherent qualities such as plants and animals, combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures, to produce a life-supporting system for city and country using the smallest practical area.

Permaculture Design work

Why it Matters

How would our neighborhoods, towns, and cities look and feel if we were planning on thriving in place for the next 10,000 years?

Industrial society and its underlying neo-colonial, capitalistic drivers have created immense problems for most ecosystems in the world — from forests and grasslands to rivers and oceans — and for the people living in and around them who must breath, eat, drink and provide shelter for themselves. These problems can only be solved by significantly different ways of thinking from the current power structure. A privileged few hold disproportionate decision-making power, impacting the lives and wellbeing of huge numbers of people. Sustainable systems must challenge the current power structures and apply a radically ethical solutions-based approach to find our way. People with privilege are called to act as allies with impacted communities and act as leaders in their own. Thus, the ultimate goal of permaculture is not organic gardening, natural building, or renewable energy, but the cultivation and realization of new ways of seeing, of thinking in systems, and of acting on ethics and ecology in the world.

OAEC’s work focuses on getting us away from a cradle-to-grave society to a circular economy based on ethical, ecological resource use. Join us!

“Permaculture is based on the observation of natural systems, the wisdom contained in traditional farming systems, and modern scientific and technological knowledge. Although based on good ecological models, permaculture creates a cultivated ecology, which is designed to produce more human and animal food than is generally found in nature.”

-Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture

“Permaculture is defined by consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance or food, fiber, and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings, and the ways they organize themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent (sustainable) agriculture has evolved to one of permanent (sustainable) cultures.”

-David Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability

Permaculture principles

Permaculture Design Process at OAEC

OAEC serves as a hands-on demonstration site for our Permaculture Design Certifications and other courses.

Permaculture Design underlies the management approach to OAEC’s 80-acre site. This includes management of our biointensive Mother Garden, backcountry restoration of our Wildlands Preserve, stormwater planning and erosion control, stream restoration, buildings, and long-term site development plan.

Resilient Community Design

At OAEC, our approach to Permaculture has evolved into a practice, a process, and a verb toward whole community well-being. We have applied our vision and strategy (focused on whole community capacity-building), social justice analysis, community organizing skills, ecological knowledge, and permaculture experience to create a design methodology that is meaningful and useable to place-based communities with widely differing backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, languages, and ages.

Resilient community design is a facilitated process that enables groups to create designs to better address their social, cultural, ecological and economic needs, thus deepening their ecological understanding of their place and their ability to steward it. It also empowers communities to practice sovereignty thinking and develop the skills of self-governance through collaborative decision-making. All members of a community have the right to participate in determining and stewarding the resilience of the places they call home.

Resilient Community

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