Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
No. Organics is a method of growing, while permaculture is a design system. They comple-
ment each other, each providing an essential component in an overall system. Nevertheless
there is a certain difference in approach.
Organic farming is based on the rotation of crops, growing a different crop on each piece
of ground every year. Permaculturists, on the other hand, prefer to grow a diversity of crops
on the same piece of land at the same time. It is even more like a natural ecosystem, and
allows more useful connections to be made between the different plants than does a rota-
tional system.
A second difference is that the emphasis on no-till methods and perennial crops, which
is central to permaculture, is missing from most organic farming. This is an essential ele-
ment of a low energy strategy for the future.
Most important of all is the fact that permaculture is applicable to far more than growing
food. We have already seen how its principles can be applied in the social and economic
fields. In fact, they could be applied to any human activity with great advantage.
How can farmers afford the changeover to permaculture?
For many farms, the first step is to set up some form of food links, perhaps starting with a
box scheme. That way the farmers receive a greater share of the price of their produce than
if they sell through conventional channels. In that case, the changeover is not a financial
problem, but a direct gain.
As permaculture is very much a low-input system, a change to permacultural methods on
the farm will always save money in the long term, but the change can often save money in
the short-term too. For example, where foggage provides the winter feed, no hay or silage-
making machinery is needed, so a farmer who changes to a foggage system will start saving
on machinery costs immediately.
Nevertheless, there are some kinds of change which require an investment of money and
effort that will only be repaid in the long-term. Planting trees, for animal fodder or for nuts,
is an example. This kind of change could put a strain on the farm's finances.
The answer is not to try and do it all at once, but to spread the planting over a number of
years. There will not be a large bill to pay in any one year and later plantings will be paid
for by money made or saved by the earlier ones. A gradual approach has other advantages
too: it enables the farmer to learn by experience, instead of making mistakes on the grand
scale; and fewer trees planted at one time means that they can be given more attention in
the first year or two after planting out, when they need it most. This is known as 'rolling
The farmer could also choose to involve the community in a medium to long-term ver-
sion of subscription farming, with consumers investing money at the time the trees are
planted in return for a share of the produce once they start bearing in a few years' time. It
would be possible to buy and sell such shares, so that people who moved out of the area in
the meantime would not lose out.
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