We extended the Finca la Castaña from 12.000 to 16.000 m² in 2019 and used the additional 4.000 m² to create a permaculture, especially for a tropical food forest. So volunteering on our finca means that you also learn a lot about permaculture
What is permaculture?
Permaculture comes from the root words “permanent” and “agriculture.” It aims to make food production (aka. agriculture) easier and more sustainable by mimicking the permanent, regenerative systems that can be found in nature.
The idea is that in the wild, ecosystems don’t need any input from human beings. They regenerate all on their own. Permaculture, therefore, aims to replicate many of the natural systems that exist in order to produce more (higher yields) with less human input (aka. time, energy and resources).
In short, permaculture works with nature rather than against it, which is in sharp contrast to conventional agricultural models that require constant management and input (ie. planting, fertilizing, irrigation, herbicides, pesticides, etc.) in order to produce a yield, and typically do a lot of ecological and environmental damage in the process.
But permaculture isn’t just some hippy dippy environmental movement (not that there’s anything wrong with that;) It’s actually a super practical way to design your homestead, your home and even your entire life in order to make things easier, cheaper and less time consuming overall. Because once you do the initial work of setting your permaculture systems up, you get to reap the benefits of those systems without having to constantly manage them, which always ends in higher yields for less work.
The origins of permaculture
The term “permaculture” was first coined by friends and coworkers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia back in the 1970’s. They envisioned a new agricultural design that was both permanent and sustainable, using available resources in a way that offered high output (yields) while producing little to no waste.
Mollison and Holmgren envisioned a set of 12 principles that permaculture practitioners could use to design everything from a small backyard garden to a large piece of property. While many of the principles apply to the initial phases of the design process (ie. designing a brand new garden or homestead), they are certainly beneficial to anyone interested in improving their gardening or homesteading setup, no matter how well established.
Earth Care, Fair Share & People Care
Permaculture is based on 3 main ethical standards: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share
Earth Care is all about making sure that our actions improve (or at least maintain) the earth and the natural environment. So for example, when it comes to gardening that means we are using organic methods to make the land more productive and diverse and steering clear of herbicides, pesticides and GMOs.
In the home, Earth Care could mean using natural cleaning products and practicing good habits like turning lights and taps off when we’re not using them. In the community, Earth Care could mean walking or cycling instead of driving or picking up litter.
People Care is all about making sure the needs of the people around us are met in sustainable, self-sufficient ways. Feeding ourselves, our families and our community members with the food that we grow is one way of caring for people, but it is certainly not the only way.
The 12 design principles of permaculture
Permaculture follows 12 basic design principles. While you don’t have to follow every principle in order to implement permaculture design on your own property, the more of them you understand and incorporate, the more sustainable, efficient and self-sustaining your homestead (and your life) will be! It’s best to start with the first principle, and then move through each of the remaining principles in chronological order, although it’s not required to implement each one in order
Here’s a summary of each of the 12 principles of permaculture…
- Observe and Interact with Nature
- Catch and Store Energy
- Obtain a Yield
- Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
- Use and Value Renewable Resources
- Produce No Waste
- Design From Patterns to Details
- 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
volunteering tenerife permaculture