Permaculture Movement Gains Ground

Posted at: 08/30/2013 6:26 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- As rising fuel prices and a turbulent growing season have driven up the cost of food, some are looking for new, more permanent and sustainable ways to farm.

About twenty students gathered at Harmony Park in Clarks Grove on Friday to study permaculture.

What is it? Well...

“It’s very hard to fit permaculture in a nutshell,” said Wayne Weiseman, a world-renowned permaculture expert who led Friday’s workshop. “It’s a comprehensive system of design for sustainability."

So what does that mean exactly? Well, permaculture involves everything from sustainable farming practices, to green building techniques, to responsible energy use.

“It’s a complete lifestyle,” Weiseman said. “I guess one of the ideal goals of permaculture is to create a zero-waste environment."

And Harmony Park itself looks to be a leader in the permaculture movement.

Officials say they've been expanding their garden every year and plan on adopting new practices to make the park more self-sufficient.

“When we have events like we have now with food waste, we give that to the chickens,” said Jay Sullivan, the park’s owner. “The chickens in turn lay eggs, and we gather those the next day which feed us, so it's a really nice cycle that we're a part of."

And while experts say many aspects of permaculture are very simple and easy to learn, there are still a number of barriers preventing it from gaining widespread recognition, including start-up costs and a lack of educational resources.

“The issue is that we've built this infrastructure on most farms with corn, soybeans, etc., that it's very difficult to make that change,” Weiseman said.

But despite the obstacles, Weiseman said they’re making progress.

“It’s a slow process. But there are a lot of younger people getting into this now and a lot of younger people working on farms all over the world,” Weiseman said. “So we're starting to see a bit of change in the way things are done."

During Friday’s workshop, students were able to get their hands dirty, building a more efficient garden plot and designing conservation systems to lessen the park's environmental impact.