Food Safety: Permaculture

The idea of sustainable agriculture has so many avenues in which to promote a more sustainable approach to producing food. By permaculture standards, any agriculture is absolutely unsustainable for the simple fact that human hands need to cull and harvest the product. Therefore, permaculture and agriculture are somewhat at opposite ends of the food production argument. While ideas of permaculture can be implemented into agriculture, it's really a one-way street: permaculture, by its strictest definition, refutes agriculture on principle.

Like anarchy, permaculture is defined by many sources. The most strict permaculturists will say that any agriculture that disrupts the natural flow and harmony of biodiversity within the landscape is destructive at best.  But since agriculture is part of our human existence, many permaculturists will suggest treading lightly and caring for the food environment is the best option.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service paraphrases the definition of Bill Mollison, the patriarch of permaculture as, focusing on "thoughtful designs for small-scale intensive systems which are labor efficient and which use biological resources instead of fossil fuels. Designs stress ecological connections and closed energy and material loops. The core of permaculture is design and the working relationships and connections between all things. Each component in a system performs multiple functions, and each function is supported by many elements. Key to efficient design is observation and replication of natural ecosystems, where designers maximize diversity with polycultures, stress efficient energy planning for houses and settlement, using and accelerating natural plant succession, and increasing the highly productive 'edge-zones' within the system."

The only way to a truly sustainable agriculture system is to invest at least some core principles of permaculture into it. First, farmers need to be more as scientists in their practice. While it's evident that this is the case for many sustainable and organic farms, it is often not the case for large, industrial farms where machines do most of the work, leaving the farmer in a constant state of disconnect from the soil, air and water which feeds their business and our bodies.

In the documentary, In Grave Danger of Falling Food, the case is made for permaculture and why it's important to not only practice methods of sustainable agriculture or low-impact farming, but for consumers to support it as well. The issue is at the crux of our entire system: national security, food economics, food safety.

Photo credit: Video Still from In Grave Danger of Falling Food