Permaculture in Action
Permaculture in Giving Ground Seed’s Mission:
Permaculture is a system of design that provides all the needs for humanity in a way that benefits the environment. Permaculture is a way of thinking, designing, and organizing that revolves around three main tenets- Care for Earth, Care for People, and Fair Share.
As a set of ecologically inspired ethics, permaculture has the potential for wide-scale application in almost any setting- from sustainable farm planning to organizational change in a business or community setting. Permaculture draws its wisdom from many sources, including both traditional ecological knowledge and folkways and scientific understanding of how natural ecosystems flow and function. For a more specific, yet quick and dirty breakdown of the values behind Permaculture, check out these 12 main principles that serve as tools to guide us toward practical solutions for a healthier, fairer world.
We use the permaculture principles to inspire and inform many of the choices we make around the farm. We hold Permaculture Design Certificates- the certificate of completion of permaculture intsensive trainings, and over 20 years of combined experience in permaculture projects. The following are some of our favorite examples, followed by the principle it most closely connects with.
Growth of low-input and organic suited crops: Energy Conservation and Use of Renewables
Certain crop species and varieties are better adapted to low fertility, low input, organic systems than others. One way to conserve resources- such as water, fertility inputs, and human energy used to maintain and grow the crop- is to grow varieties that thrive without much in the way of inputs. It all starts with the seeds, and when considering if a variety will do well in such an energy-conserving agricultural system, consider the system the seeds were bred and grown in. If they were grown in an organic field and bred or organic systems, you can bet they will perform better than those bred for conventional agriculture. We research, trial, grow, and offer varieties with this as one of our guiding principles- will it do well in a low input, energy conserving system?
Promotion of genetically diverse populations and regionally adapted landraces for continued on-farm plant breeding: Use and Value Diversity
Giving Ground Seeds is committed to growing and offering genetically diverse seed populations and landraces. A landrace crop is one containing a lot of genetic diversity that is adapted to thrive in a specific region and climate, typically under low-input systems. This diversity manifests phenotypically (characteristics we can see, taste, and smell) as a wide array of shapes, sizes, colors, tastes, and growth habits. Though these traits can be all over the map, what is consistent with the plant members of a landrace is their ability to thrive in the bioregion is was bred in. For perspective landrace is a more genetically diverse population than a variety, but a more narrow population than a grex, which is still much more narrow than a species. A landrace can be a group of interbreeding varieties, especially with self-pollinating crops like peas, beans, and tomatoes.
These diverse populations can be used by growers in a number of ways. They can be maintained as they are- diverse and beautiful, containing a deep well of genetic diversity that allows the crop to adapt and flow to any change in growing conditions. Or they can be used by farmers to create new varieties specifically adapted to their farm’s growing conditions.
Animal Integration into a seed growing system: Principle- Integrate Don’t Segregate
Animals are a crucial part of our seed growing system. Goat manure from our dairy goats provides some of our fertility requirements. Chickens in tractor help reduce pest pressure from earwigs and grasshoppers in field periphery. Honeybees provide that all-important on a seed farm pollination. We also strive to partner with beneficial predatory insects to control problem pests. We do this by using minimal tillage, diverse field plantings which include native wildflowers, and by not using pesticides of any kind- even those allowed in certified organic systems.
Animals are important part of our regeneration plan for our small farm- chickens as pest and weed control- manure for soil regenerations
Natural responses to insect pests- Observe and interact
We have come to think of pest management as one of our favorite seasonal dances of observing and interacting. Observe what pests we have, what predatory insects help us reduce their numbers, and what conditions those predatory insects thrive in. We learn all we can about the lifecycle of that pest- and control using the cultural methods of exclusion via row cover at crucial points in the lifecycle we can control.
Preservation of rare, historical, and culturally significant varieties: Creatively Use and Respond to Change and Obtain a Yield
Why do rare seeds matter? Not only are they unique additions to your garden, rare seeds help preserve the past while providing the genetic diversity needed for agricultural adaptation and resiliency in the future.
Resiliency in genetic diversity: One equation that many of us in food security and sustainable agriculture are concerned about is the ever decreasing number of plant species and crop varieties being grown worldwide, coupled with the increasing challenges those varieties need to be adapted to. Changes in climate, pest types and concentrations, and soil fertility are all things our food crops need to become adapted to. With a wider, more diverse genetic base, farmers and plant breeders might find more success in discovering varieties suited to challenging conditions.
Cultural and historical significance: With little commercial relevance, if rare seeds aren't grow by gardeners and small market farmers, they will go away. For critically endangered culturally and historically important varieties, check out our Slow Food Ark of Taste package, which got two new additions in 2020.