I’m going to invite you into a conversation I had a few months ago with my permaculture design mentor:
My mentor: “Do not use the term permaculture.”
Me: “Why?” (For the record, in this moment I thought this term was AMAZING and wanted to tell everyone.)
Mentor: “Because if you have to define something you’ve already lost your client.”
I did not completely understand the extent of one’s confusion with this term, but this soon became very clear the further I got along in my business, Pineapple Acres, an outdoor classroom meant to educate in gardening, edible landscaping, and mindfulness. I began to realize most average gardeners (possible subjects interested in permaculture) didn’t know what this word meant even after it was defined. Most home owners didn’t want an explanation to how edibles could be added to their landscape; they simply wanted ‘pretty.’ They didn’t care if you could eat it or not. And I didn’t even attempt this term with my non-gardening friends.
What is permaculture?
By definition permaculture is: the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
But what does that really mean? I’m hoping to answer this question by not actually answering this question.
So here I was with a word that had triggered a dream, but had the potential to critically confused my prospecting clients.
Why would a word that defines my life and career be a word that I should not use?
Before I answer that question, I’d like to take you on my permaculture journey as a way to show you a glimpse of a permaculture lifestyle in basic terms.
About 12 years ago, I was loosely introduced to the term by a friend who was studying urban planning, but who also had a knack for natural/native landscape design and gardening. He and I had even planned to begin a commune-like homestead where our partners provided money so we could tinkered in the fields. That dream turned into the reality of a shared community garden to a small farm where we spent many hours experimenting. I learned to defend chickens from a healthy population of raccoons; to winterize a bee hive; to install rain barrels to water animals as well as plants; and to prune raspberries and blackberries. I owned things like a dehydrator, pressure cooker, and hot-water bath canner. We were serious gardeners. I sold organic eggs and even invested in a book called, “The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It,” by John Seymour. My farm was fun and comfortable, but I never labeled it permaculture; we called is sustainable living. Yet, it was ingrained with permaculture and taught me skills that have given me the status today as “the one in the room who knows what they are talking about.”
It was a really great time in my life. I’m now trying to replicate this life in the tropics on a smaller scale in a more urban area.
I’ve educated myself in permaculture through a permaculture design course taught by Koreen Brennan with Grow Permaculture. You can read my story here. It transformed my life in ways I never anticipated. Embracing permaculture is not just an agricultural design technique for me. It has become a way of life.
How permaculture became my life:
- I’ve learned to live consciously considering a view that embraces health for the mind, body and spirit.
- I’ve learned to observe what I see and interact with the flow of the reality.
- I’ve learned to see the connections of every element in my life and through those connections see a bigger picture.
- I’ve learned to view a problem as a possible solution.
- I’ve learned to let things be and control only what is in my power. (Sometimes in a design this is referring to the client.)
These are techniques I use in design for a workshop, a garden or a relationship. There is no limit to a healthy holistic view. And that is where I anticipate to take my clients.
Because my clients do not come to me for a vocabulary lesson. And the definition of permaculture doesn’t even begin to share the magic. A definition is just words, but an experience is lasting. So from now on, I do not run a permaculture-based business. I don’t even run an edible landscape business.
I have the ability to introduce you to world that will nourish your mind, body and spirit, but you won’t know it’s through the principals of permaculture.
Because that is not why you will come to Pineapple Acres.
You’ll come to Pineapple Acres ready to educate yourself in nature, but you will leave with sustenance to last a lifetime.
And that is the definition of permaculture.
Remember to keep moving, experimenting and learning. Eventually you’ll discover what you need in the garden, in relationships and in life.