[permaculture] Peak Oil -

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Jul 20 21:18:23 EDT 2007

Marjory wrote:
> in your experience growing food is easy. . .  but by no means is it as easy as it was presented in the pc course.
Growing some food is easy; that's why it's the most popular hobby in the 
developed world. But there's a huge difference between "growing food," 
which is what PDCs talk about, and "growing all your food," which I've 
never heard recommended in any of the 60 or so PDCs I've been involved 
in, or by any of the teachers I know.
> I've visited almost all of the precious few local
> farmers who actually produce food for a living. 
Anyone who says or believes farming is easy is certifiably insane; with 
all the cultural lore about the miserable lives of farmers, how could 
anyone think otherwise? Mollison does have some old stories about how 
many people could make a living from one piece of land, and I do think 
those are Bill's fantasies rather than anything he's seen people 
actually do. Bill is magnificent tale-spinner and a great salesman. 
That's typical for a visionary. There are a few teachers repeating 
Bill's stories, and it's a disreputable thing to do. At least make up 
your own. But are there really people coming out of PDCs and 
straightaway buying farms, thinking it's going to be one big party?

So it sounds like you've heard Pc teachers say that creating an 
ecovillage was easy, growing all your own food is easy, and farming for 
a living is easy. That's truly bizarre. Why would any intelligent person 
listen to such rubbish?

It's very strange that permaculture is perceived as recommending each 
household grow all their own food.  Any basic design assessment would 
show that that's a dreadful strategy for almost everyone. In the first 
pages of the Designer's Manual, Mollison says if you're better at 
something other than food growing, trading your time or income for 
healthy food is an intelligent thing to do. By the same token, it only 
makes sense for an ecovillage to grow the crops that they are 
well-suited to grow, and to trade for or buy the remainder of their 
food. Only if they are end-of-the-world types would they want to grow 
all their own food. But at this point, with so much food so readily 
available from comparatively healthy sources, and with farming such 
difficult work, I don't see why an ecovillage would insist upon growing 
all its food. My observation is that the 80/20 rule applies to food 
self-sufficiency: that last 20% of your food needs takes about 80% of 
the work. I was about 50% food independent with only a few hours of work 
per week at one point, but to get to 100% would have required a 
many-fold increase in labor time. To do so seemed a poor use of my time.


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