What is Permaculture?

Permaculture, a term coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid-1970’s, is the combination of the two words “Permanent” and “Agriculture”. The permaculture concept of a design approach to agriculture modeled after natural eco-systems was first published in Bill and David’s first book Permaculture One in 1978. As the concept developed, it became clear that it was about much more than just agriculture and the name Permaculture began to reflect a more holistic view of a permanent-culture.

The system of permaculture was derived from deep observation of nature, sustainable practices of some of the world’s oldest indigenous cultures, and proven strategies for perennial agriculture. Since it’s origination, the term has come encompass a wide variety of regionally appropriate techniques and strategies for regenerative system design and sustainable living.

Some Definitions

There are many ways of defining this simple yet profound system of design. Here are a few of our favorites:

“Permaculture is defined as consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in Nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber, and energy for the provision of local needs… More precisely, I see Permaculture as the use of systems thinking and design principles that provide the organizing framework for implementing the above vision.”    –David Holmgren, co-founder of Permaculture


“Observe Nature thoroughly, rather than labor thoughtlessly.”    –Masanobu Fukuoka

 “Permaculture is the art of the Possible”    -Graham Bell

“Permaculture is a Revolution disguised as Organic Gardening”    -Graham Burnett

“Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of cultivated eco-systems which have the diversity, stability & resilience of natural eco-systems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape, people & appropriate technologies, providing goods, shelter, energy & other needs in a sustainable way. Permaculture is a philosophy and an approach to land use which works with natural rhythms & patterns, weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual & perennial plants, animals, water & soil management, & human needs into intricately connected & productive communities. Permaculture is a holistic approach based on traditional agricultural practices.”

Bill Mollison & Scott Pittman, La Tierra Community CA PDC flyer

Ethics & Principles

One of the main elements that sets permaculture apart from many other agricultural systems (sustainable or otherwise) is its rooting within three foundational ethics. Please see our Ethics page for more details on the Permaculture Ethics and how they apply to The Permacultourism Initiative.

In addition to being guided by a set of ethics, permaculture is put into action through a series of basic design principles that help to build a framework for effective, energy efficient and simple design. In 2002, David Holmgren condensed the many principles that had developed over the years into a concise set of 12 principles through his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.

Please see PermaculturePrinciples.com for more information on David Holmgren’s 12 Permaculture Design Principles.

Permaculture Design Principles

The Permaculture Design Principles as developed by David Holmgren at http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/

The 12 Design Principles:

Observe and Interact

Catch and Store Energy

Obtain a Yield

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

Produce No Waste

Design From Pattern to Detail

Integrate Rather than Segregate

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Use and Value Diversity

Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Creatively Use and Respond to Change