Editor’s Note: Karen reflects on her two months of learning on the farm.
Reflecting back over the 8 weeks of our permaculture internship, I wanted to attempt to distil and share what I’ve learned about permaculture.
For a start, permaculture is one of those terms that a single definition won’t cover – it’s multi-dimensional in theory and in practice. On our first evening here at Kaitiaki Farm, five interns around the dinner table gave five different descriptions of what they understood permaculture to be. For example; sustainable agriculture; a systems/holistic approach to farming; working together with nature and natural processes in agriculture. It is all this and more. It is a blend of scientific knowledge and traditional approaches. It is a framework for resilience in an uncertain world.
At the heart of permaculture are the ethics of earth care, people care, and fair share. It’s about considering the part humans play in natural resource cycles, and designing for sustainability of these systems.
Permaculture is not exclusively for those with land in the countryside. We can be permaculturists on city sections, as apartment-dwellers, and as vagabonds.
Permaculture can inform many of our life choices; how we manage our finances; how we share surpluses; how we design our homes and workplaces; and how we form our communities. Permaculture encourages us to consider our actions from all angles.
Permaculture helps build sustainable communities: Whanganui has a local “green dollar” currency – River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) – where members can barter or exchange skills and produce using River Dollars (which are equal in value to $NZ). There is a REBS stall every week at the Saturday River Traders Market. We transported garlic from Kaitiaki Farm to the market by bike.
Permaculture helps us design systems which are multi-dimensional, and which factor in resilience. At Kaitiaki Farm the wood-burner warms the house in winter, while also heating the hot water, and is used for cooking. While there is also an electric stove, often a solar cooker is used to prepare meals. Having several different cooking options means the household doesn’t go hungry in a power outage and makes cooking more of an adventure.