Seeds of Permaculture Set to Germinate in Donegal

From the 14th to 17th May, a group of like-minded people from across Ireland came together in the wilds of Donegal to explore the subject of Permaculture & Forest Gardening with one of the UK’s leading practitioners, Aranya.

Permaculture is a design science which has it’s roots in Agriculture; the term itself is a portmanteau of “Permanent” & “Agriculture”. The Permaculture approach involves establishing robust systems which mimic natural cycles & self-manage, while also providing a useful yield or function (timber, nuts, fruit, shelter belt, etc…).

Forest Gardening is a perennial approach to food production where plants, trees & shrubs are planted as a close guild & encouraged to grow together to maximise production per square foot of ground area. The graphic below details a typical arrangement for each of the 7 vertical layers of the a Forest Garden.

Forest Garden Layers

(source: Wikipedia)

The benefits of such a planting pattern are twofold:

  1. By vertically stacking functions, there is potential for a greater calorific yield of food, per square foot, than conventional mono-culture practices.
  2. By selecting species which compliment each other through the nutrient cycle, a well designed system will effectively self-manage once established. Hence, once these systems are up & running, human effort tails off through time, as food output reaches optimum & plateaus.

Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm runs a successful farm in Wisconsin, US, based on these very principles. Mark is one of a new breed of farmers who are managing their operations as complete ecosystems, with some remarkable success. I can definitely recommend his book, Restoration Agriculture, which makes a very convincing argument for this approach to broad acre food production on all social, environmental & financial levels, as well as giving real-world examples of calorific yields from his own operation.

Of the 20 or so participants on this 4 day workshop, a variety of backgrounds were represented including Home Gardeners, Community Market Gardeners producing vegetables, Smallholders, Farmers, Professional Landscape Designers & Architects. Feedback from this diverse group was very positive. The scaleability of the design approach to both Permaculture & Forest Gardening has applications right across the board, from the smallest of front gardens in urban environments, right up to farm-scale systems.

Donegal Pc & FG course 2015_027

Donegal Pc & FG course 2015_059

Huge thanks goes to Sean Debney & Joanne Butler for bringing the idea for this training opportunity to life. Particular gratitude also goes to Seamus O’Donnell & Cluain Na dTor Nurseries, Falcarragh, for providing an inspirational setting for this course.

Donegal Pc & FG course 2015_008

If you want to find out more about Permaculture or get involved with this growing movement here in Donegal, please get in touch.

Donegal Pc & FG course 2015_150

2 thoughts on “Seeds of Permaculture Set to Germinate in Donegal

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