[permaculture] (Sub)urban Permaculture Elements

Jason Gerhardt jasongerhardt at gmail.com
Fri Jun 3 13:22:16 EDT 2011

Bob, Glenn, all,
I am one such urban resident who works in the rural lands to regenerate the
potential of the larger landscapes. However, as an urban resident I tend to
think in terms of bioregional zones of use about my food supply. Out my door
in my zone 1 of concrete and asphalt gridiron on top of which I have a
significant potted garden growing my micronutrient and vegetable base in the
form of greens, salads of various types, cabbage, broccoli/cauli, summer
fruits, figs, culinary herbs, etc. I can walk outside and eat an instant
salad at anytime. I also guerilla garden various patches of abandoned land
in my neighborhood where I grow beans and have larger compost setups. In the
neighborhoods surrounding mine (nearly the rest of the town) I glean plums,
apples, apricots, grapes, seeds of rare plants, and scionwood from the bones
leftover of the agricultural traditions that once existed within city
limits, as well as clients forest gardens. This I consider my zone 2.
 Outside of city limits I work on several properties implementing
permaculture design for broadacre agriculture by doing just what you suggest
in the form of water harvesting earthworks, orchard systems, animals, and
polycultural cereal grain production (very small scale). This is my zone 3.
 Beyond that are the larger produce farms that bring food to the farmer's
market where I get things like melons, pickling vege, tomatoes for canning,
and loads of winter squash for storage. That is my zone 4. I also spend
sometime in the higher mountains in my bioregional zone 5 where I forage for
morel and porcini mushrooms, seeds of native plants, potherbs, wild berries,
etc. Even with all this (though it could be ramped up a hundredfold) I still
regularly walk two blocks to the natural food store where I participate in
the global food chain for perhaps the bulk of my caloric needs, though that
gets less and less as time goes on.

I think if we intensively apply zonation to our bioregions we will get a lot
better at feeding ourselves locally which will halt the expansion of
inappropriate farmland and allow for the repair and restoration of some
farmland to mixed native ecosystems and regenerative agriculture.

The amount of food that once came from within the limits of most cities and
towns is massive compared to what it is now. As an example, in the early
1900's Boulder County Colorado was an exporter of fruits, whereas now we
import nearly all of our fruit from around the world or the Western Slope of
Colorado. Things change quickly it would seem. I think it is really easy to
produce vegetables on the home scale and that large scale produce farming
could be made nearly obsolete if we had a revolution of home gardening using
permaculture techniques. It makes a lot of sense that the larger local
acreages should be focusing on protein and calorie production rather than
produce. I think the work of Darren Doherty's RegenAg is perhaps the most
promising initiative for this work.

As a past produce market farmer, in arid lands of the western US
particularly, I have to say I don't wish that way of agriculture on anyone.
Keeping up with the bugs, watering, super weeds, etc. just sucks. I'd rather
educate every city dweller to grow their own salads. It makes so much more
sense on a backyard scale where things like mulch and micro water harvesting
can be employed.

In my experience, there a challenges to doing permaculture in both rural and
urban/suburban environments (mostly the social structures). I think both
need it equally and instead of choosing one over the other we should go with
what makes sense.  To me using zones to design our food supply lines is just
common sense, and it is zones that will determine where things should go and
where the focus should be set.


More information about the permaculture mailing list