Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is Permaculture Edible?

Ryan Harb, right of the President
At Umass Amherst, students in dorms can opt to live on a 'sustainable' floor.  Last week, Ryan Harb was catapulted into fame when his permaculture gardens won the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge with the support of 59,841 Facebook friends. It was a close race among students in the US vying for social change. The UMass Permaculture Garden had approximately 2000 votes more than an Arkansas based Food Pantry. Today Harb is being congratulated by the President as one of five Champions of Change for his sustainability efforts. The President said in today's speech said, "If you're not idealistic when you are young then you have a problem."

Harb's success is the transformation of a grass lawn next to the Franklin Dining Commons into a sustainable ecosystem, also known as permaculture. It took two years and many volunteers. 

As Chief Sustainability Coordinator for Auxiliary Services and Enterprises, at UMass Amherst Harb and his team are growing fruit, nuts, vegetables, greens and flowers. He defines the garden as "Sustainability involving people working together to create ecological and edible landscapes."  

There is a permaculture farm at Hampshire College and one in Northampton at the Meadows. Both provide some food in a sustainable ecosystem with no tilling, no lawn and no weeding. This is accomplished by working within the ecosystem. 

Plants can be inoculated with fungi to promote resilience and growth. Pest resistant marigolds and chives are planted are also part of the landscape.  As one grower put it, the real time is setting up the garden, once that is done, there is virtually little to do when permaculture is part of the landscape.

Grandfather of Natural Faming of Japan, Masanobu Fukuok
Masanobu Fukuoka is the grandfather of natural farming in Japan. In his book, One Straw Revolution, he advised that one should “Observe nature thoroughly rather than labor thoughtlessly.”