Agriculture

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Agriculture is the cultivation and growth of plant and/or animal species which can be used as sources of food (energy) for sustenance of another plant and/or animal species. The modern example of agriculture is farming (i.e. planting vegetables, raising livestock, etc...)


Permaculture

Permaculture is a more natural and simplistic approach to farming (including planting, growing, maintaining without pesticides or inorganic fertilizers, renewing plant seed/stocks and a localized focus to the distribution of food).

The 12 Principles

  1. Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder” By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines” By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach” Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
  4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation” We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees” By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path” The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.

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Land Requirements

To paraphrase a discussion from Permies forum: "According to research done by Ecology Action, the minimum land needed to grow a complete vegan diet for one person is 4000 square feet (0.0918 acres[2]; so for a family of 4, then 16000 sq.ft or 0.37 acres is the bare minimum), under ideal conditions. Under less than ideal conditions of heat, drought, flood, cold, etc (which you should always plan for), you'll need more. According to Eliot Coleman in "The New Organic Grower" the maximum land one person can manage to grow vegetables on intensively by themselves (no hired help or volunteers) is about 2 acres as a full-time job (8+ hours/day, 7 days/week); so say it was a hobby farm and you plan to devote approximately 15% of your time to it or 24 hours/week (i.e 2hrs/day on weekdays + 7hrs/day on weekends), then a single person could manage about 0.85 acres of land, or enough to satisfy the needs of three families. One proposed solution for managing larger acreage or sharing the responsibilities of even a small acreage is the "you-pick'em" and/or "rent-a-plot" approaches popularized by Sepp Holzer[3][4][5][6], whereby consumers pay to pick and package their own produce (perhaps even pay to attend a weekend class and go home with a basket of berries or other produce) thereby reducing prodution and demand on the land owner, or, whereby the production itself is leased out to hobbyist who might have an interest in permaculture, farming or nature in general, but who don't have the budget or desire to be large land owners themselves or maintain an entire farm.

In any case, that gives some minimums and maximums yields for fruits and vegetables. For grazing livestock, you need to know the carrying capacity[7] of the specific parcel of land. This varies enormously. In the Eastern US you can raise one cow on one acre of pasture (mini breeds at about 3 per acre). In more arid areas, such as Central Texas it takes at least 20-25 acres per cow. To the west it may take 100 acres per cow. Carrying capacity can be greatly improved with proper management (see the work of Alan Savory[8][9][10][11]) but the initial carrying capacity of the land, what you have to start with, is important so you don't overstock at first, which can cause more damage. [12] [13]




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References

  1. 12 Principles of Permaculture by David Holmgren: http://justlists.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/principles-of-permaculture/
  2. How Many Sq. Feet In An Acre?: http://able2know.org/topic/26485-1
  3. Podcast discussing Sepp Holzer's ideas about growing fruit trees: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fruit/msg0412381723452.html
  4. Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: http://www.richsoil.com/sepp-holzer/sepp-holzer-permaculture.jsp
  5. Holzer´sche Permakultur: http://www.krameterhof.at/en/index.php?id=holzersche_permakultur
  6. Sepp Holzer's Innovations in Permaculture: http://www.krameterhof.at/pdf/presse/permaculture-pm68.pdf
  7. What is Carrying Capacity?: http://www.gdrc.org/uem/footprints/carrying-capacity.html
  8. A Solution to Desertification - Holistic Resource Management: http://www.odi.org.uk/work/projects/pdn/papers/paper27a.html
  9. Holistic Management: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQGy0vxeL_k
  10. Cell Grazing - First 10 Years in Australia: http://www.tropicalgrasslands.asn.au/Tropical%20Grasslands%20Journal%20archive/PDFs/Vol_34_2000/Vol_34_03-04_00_pp207_218.pdf
  11. Savory's Bitterness Scale: http://www.holisticdecisions.com/LA_FREE_brittleness.pdf
  12. How many acres is a good starting point for permaculture?: http://www.permies.com/t/11714/permaculture/many-acres-good-starting-point
  13. So What IS Permaculture?: http://spiralseed.co.uk/permaculture/
  14. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services' PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/about_plants.html
  15. EXAMPLE - Ark's 52-Variety Family Seed Package: http://stores.arkinstitute.com/-strse-37/Ark's-40-dsh-Variety-Family-Seed/Detail.bok
  16. Farm Transition Loan: http://www.fcc-fac.ca/en/products/lending/transition_loan_e.asp
  17. wikipedia: Loam
  18. Characteristics of Sandy Loam Soil: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/characteristics-sandy-loam-soil-50765.html
  19. List of best permaculture readings: http://www.permies.com/t/5969/books/List-permaculture-readings
  20. Holistic Agriculture Library: http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/01aglibwelcome.html
  21. Top 100 Permaculture Books: http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/100-best-permaculture-homesteading-books-the-ultimate-reading-list-for-sustainable-living/
  22. Introducing the Permaculture Designers’ Manual, Chapter 1: Introduction to Permaculture: http://permaculture.org.au/2010/03/24/introducing-the-permaculture-designers-manual-chapter-1-introduction-to-permaculture/
  23. Seedbombs are weapon of choice in war against wastelands: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/apr/11/seed-bombs-derelict-land-flowers

See Also

Nutrition | Economy | Energy | Green IT