The Principles of Permaculture!

Permaculture Cliff’s Notes

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    It’s a biggie today! In this post, I’ll briefly go over each of the 12 Principles of Permaculture, as laid out by David Holmgren.

    1. Observe and Interact – This is principle number 1 because it’s the most important! Observation of the landscape, its patterns and dynamics is absolutely fundamental. I like to say, “Don’t ask why, just record the observation.”

    2. Catch and Store Energy – This includes all different types of energy: solar and wind, but also people, animals, fertility, and soil and water flows. How do we capture energy which flows through a site, and then cycle it creatively through that site to use in as many ways as possible?

    3. Obtain a Yield – To paraphrase Bill Mollison, “the yield of any system is only limited by the creativity of the designer.” How creative can you get?

    4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback – “Self-regulation” means automating the design process in some way; it does not necessarily mean subtracting yourself from the process. Define your level of involvement and stick to it. And then, observe and accept the feedback that the system shows you.

    5. Use and Value Renewable Resources – I like to change this one to the Bill Mollison quote, “Always favor biological solutions.” How can a plant solve this problem for me? How can an animal support the work needed for this design? As opposed to non-living entropic systems which degrade over time, biological solutions and renewable resources live on and regenerate.

    6. Produce No Waste – Waste is just an unused output of any system, or MOOP – “matter out of place.” Get creative here–what use could your “waste” be put to?

    7. Design from Pattern to Detail – It’s more important to understand the larger patterns working on any system–i.e. weather or human patterns–than get lost in the details, especially at the beginning of any design process.

    8. Integrate Rather than Segregate – Permaculture is interested in the relationships between two  things. Understanding how the chicken house and the herb garden relate, for example, is way more interesting that simply having those two elements as distinct parts of your design.

    9. Slow and Small Solutions – By using slow and small-scale solutions, you allow yourself to be flexible to new information and idea. You preserve the ability to change and adapt as you go, thus building resilient and durable systems.

    10. Use and Value Diversity – Diverse systems are more flexible than homogeneous ones, and spread risk between the different elements of the system. By valuing diversity of plants, animals, and humans, we build robust and resilient systems.

    11. Use Edges and Value the Margins – The “edge effect” is what happens when two different things meet, i.e. forest and pasture. Out of the interaction between those two things, new possibilities arise. The edge is greater than the sum of its parts.

    12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – I like to note that this principle urges us to respond rather than react, which implies thoughtfulness and creativity. This one is also related to the permaculture best practice of having every element in your system support at least 3 functions, and every function supported by at least 3 different elements.



    Atitlan Organics Permaculture Course

    Studying Permaculture and Natural Building in Guatemala offers amazing opportunities to learn from indigenous cultures, rich natural patterns, and enormous diversity. Permaculture in Central America is representative of the edge effect or Edge Valuing Principle of Design. As one of the world’s centres of biodiversity, Central America attracts people from all over the world interested in learning through nature. Permaculture practices and sustainable building designs can be seen in action via the surviving indigenous traditions that are common in Guatemala. Studying permaculture and natural building in Central America offers designers great opportunities to learn from diverse groups of people in incredibly diverse natural settings. 

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    Sarah Wu

    Sarah is a clinical herbalist of 20 years, studying and practicing planetary eclectic, regenerative herbalism with a foundation in Wise Woman Reclaiming philosophies. Influenced by global traditions, Sarah focuses on local food-based healing and ethnobotanical traditions. She leads trainings and workshops in herbal medicine, Permaculture Design Courses, Therapeutic Deep Ecology, Social Permaculture, field-to-the-plate holistic nutrition, herbal first aid and Tarot. She is a passionate mentor and educator, who believes in the teacher’s role in unlocking the innate wisdom of the student. Sarah is the co-founder of the Village Witches project, and is a Co-Founder and Co-producer of Envision Festival.

    Laura Palmieri

    Laura ‘Lala’ Palmieri is a clinical herbalist, a biologist, plant and fungi lover and grower. She offers health consultations to balance body, mind and soul working with medicinal herbs and mushrooms. Her approach to health integrates the knowledge of many ancient traditions and teachers, fusing spirituality with nature, and science with alchemy through the transformation of the elements.

    Lala has spent her years in dialogue with Nature, which has fueled her passion to integrate scientific knowledge and the connection with all beings to help humanity. She integrates her practice with cooking, gardening, and exploring ecosystems. She teaches and facilitates herbal clinics and programs in permaculture, herbalism, botany, fermentation, and medicinal mushroom cultivation, with a regenerative earth care approach and techniques that are accessible to most. She and Sarah co-created the Envision and Cosmic Converge Herbal First Aid Clinics, other relief Clinics in Guatemala for the volcano eruption. You will find Lala crafting remedies for her diverse communities in Guatemala and Costa Rica, where she is actively creating a world with integrated healthcare.

    Holly Mech

    Holly fell in love with yoga because of the sense of connection she felt every time she came to her mat. She began teaching yoga in Chicago in 2011. Her desire to deepen her teaching and personal practice led her to continue her yoga education in California, Bali, Australia and Guatemala. Holly now travels around the world teaching yoga and facilitating yoga teacher trainings. She enjoys helping new teachers sequence yoga classes and incorporate philosophy into their teachings. Her classes are creative and dynamic with an emphasis on making yoga accessible to everyone.

    Holly studied English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and frequently draws inspiration for her classes from literature and poetry. When she’s not on the yoga mat she enjoys exploring nature, singing, dancing and working with textiles.

    Ashley McDonnell

    Ashley’s work focuses on resurrecting our relationship to the natural world through the development of earth based skills that deepen our connection to place while increasing our sense of sovereignty and resilience. Devoted to the arts of permaculture, natural building, herbalism and birth work as her mediums, Ashley explores with humility the diverse modalities that support us in living in right relationship with the world around us. She views permaculture as a practice that not only creates healthy ecological communities but one that helps to reweave the very fabric of who we are as people. Her work is an offering to the future.

    Zach Loeks

    Hailing from Ottawa, Canada where he and his partner run the 50-acre Kula Permaculture Farm, Zach brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course. He works as an educator, designer, consultant and farmer, with an emphasis on integrating diversity, conserving soil and maximizing farm ecosystem services while maintaining high productivity.

    Last year Zach published The Permaculture Market Garden, which explores ways that permaculture can be scaled up be a profitable whole-systems enterprise. Zach is a leading figure in permaculture, who brings a new and exciting vision of how it can be integrated into the wider community and marketplace.

    Rony Lec

    Rony is one of the world’s leading experts in permaculture and Mayan ancestral knowledge. Rony has spent the last 20 years teaching and implementing permaculture throughout Central, South and North America focusing on promoting food sovereignty and preserving biodiversity for the survival of Indigenous communities.

    Through his extensive work with Indigenous communities on traditional ecological knowledge, seed saving, native plants, local/global food movements, livelihood security, and the interaction between communities and the environment, he has made a key contribution to the empowerment of Indigenous people around the world. Rony is a co-founder of IMAP.

    Neal Hegarty

    Neal is originally from Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm and has been around animals all his life. He studied agriculture in Ireland and has worked as a permaculturist for the past 10 years. Neal was the Volunteer Manager at Atitlan Organics for 2 years before co-founding his own Permaculture-based enterprise, Abundant Edge Farm, in Tzununa. He brings a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, and energy into each Intro to Permaculture Course and Permaculture Design Certification Course and we’re happy to continue to collaborate with him!

    Shad Qudsi

    Shad Qudsi has over 13 years experience in organic and commercial gardening and farming. He is certified in Permaculture Design and has over 3 years experience in permaculture design consulting. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a double major in Applied Math and Psychology, Shad and his wife, Colleen, moved to Central America with only vague goals of farming at some point in the near future. In January of 2010, Shad and his wife bought and moved onto a very small farm located in the traditional Mayan village of Tzununa, which on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala. The farm developed into Atitlan Organics and now mainly focuses on greens and chickens, a large edible and useful plant nursery, a food forest, and training and education.  Shad is an enthusiastic teacher who truly believes in the work he is doing. Human resiliency cannot be erased from the landscape and now, it is coming back with a loving grace.