I Believe Introductions Are Necessary

Let’s start from the beginning shall we?

The term permaculture (permanent culture ) was coined in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Permaculture is guided by twelve principles and three ethics: earth care, people care and fair share.

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.

— Definition of permaculture as defined by The Permaculture Design Manual



 Typically permaculture is applied to agriculture and garden design. However, David Holmgren writes in The Essence of Permaculture that, “Although permaculture is a conceptual framework for sustainable development that has its roots in ecological science and systems thinking, its grassroots spread within many different cultures and contexts show its potential to contribute to the evolution of a popular culture of sustainability, through adoption of very practical and empowering solutions.”

Between Mollison and Holmgren, there are a lot of big words in the last two paragraphs. That’s ok, permaculture is like tea: there are all kinds of tea lovers, but the two most dissimilar types are those who love plain black tea and the connoisseurs. They are both lovers of tea, but in different ways. Permaculture is the same way, you don’t have to be an expert to be a permaculturalist, you just have to care about the three things that Mollison sets out:

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Earth Care

People Care

Fair Share

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Those three ethics are the guiding ideas behind everything permaculture; they determine the way you plant your garden, how to plant with the seasons and making the best use out of all energy expended. It’s an exercise in restraint, in efficiency and in ethical living. The real attraction to permaculture, however, is that it benefits everyone. This seems like an impossibility in our world – where for every winner, there is a loser – but nature doesn’t play by the same rules. In nature there is always an abundance, always more than you can make use of. So you share the excess, because we all live as part of a larger ecosystem, where each person, animal and plant has importance and value.

Gastronomic permaculture, follows these same ethics. The original idea originated with my partner Ema Williamson (a Permaculture Design Certified anthropology major at Millersville University of Pennsylvania) with whom I took my Permaculture Design Certification course. She scribbled a few notes about what the term “permaculture cooking” could possibly entail and showed them to me one  afternoon. A very long, accidental brainstorming session ensued and the idea for gastronomic permaculture was started. 

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Of course, we figured that someone was already doing this. Why wouldn’t someone combine permaculture and food? But aside from a job offer for a permaculture chef in Ethiopia, we couldn’t find anything. So we continued to work. We debated over the definition for months, picking our words very carefully until we created this long, overly complex definition sometime around 11:30pm:

Gastronomic permaculture (permanent culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of gastronomically productive networks which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of environment, culture and bodily needs providing food, energy and non-material benefits in a way that goes beyond sustainability. The integration of regenerative culture, from the land, to the kitchen and at the table, is a means to achieving robust, holistic global and individual systems.

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Yep. It’s wordy. It’s complex. It’s scientific and posh and hipster. But it’s exactly what we mean.

Gastronomic permaculture can start with creating a window box garden, getting to know your farmer, becoming friends with the people at a farmer’s market, shopping at local stores. It is a practice in redundancy and resiliency. A gastronomic permaculture network is designed not to fail. It is built around multiple relationships with the land, with farmers, with purveyors, with friends and acquaintances. 

 A gastronomic permaculture network remembers that we don’t live in a bubble. We live in an ecosystem; at some point our actions and choices affect everyone. We make our choices, setting our sights on the positives, the opportunities. We grow our food organically, we purchase locally and if possible, organically. When it’s not available locally, we purchase it fair trade, from a local store or at least a shop that makes it their mission to positively impact the world. 

A gastronomic permaculture network is good for you as well. It nourishes your entire being, both the material and non-material things we need to live. You should have abundant food, healthier food, better tasting food and you should be eating it with others.

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As we write, you’ll see examples of how we’re able to live by our own definition. We’ll share how to go about ‘designing’ and ‘maintaining’ a gastronomic network. You’ll see what we mean when we say a “gastronomically productive network”. We’ll write about how to eat healthy, environmentally friendly and community friendly food without a CEO’s salary (heck, we’ll show you how to do that on a college student’s salary). Most importantly, we’ll be writing about the connections that are made when you pay attention to your food and where it comes from; to the integration of food and relationships, rather than the segregation.

If all this is confusing to you, don’t worry, it confused us too for a while (and we came up with the idea). The whole idea is best summed up by M.F.K. Fisher anyway:

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.

— M.F.K. Fisher

So if you love food, keep reading. If you love the earth, keep reading. If you love people, you should definitely keep reading. Because gastronomic permaculture is all three in one. And this is only the first post. We have a lot more to say. 

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