Permaculture 101

What is permaculture? In a nutshell, it's a philosophy of land use that seeks to mimic natural ecologies to maximize food production while minimizing soil depletion.

A permaculture landscape is sustainable, designed so that plants, animals and humans are working together for mutual benefit. The emphasis is on symbiotic relationships, such as companion plants chosen because they produce or attract things that adjacent plants need to thrive.

The term was coined in the mid-'70s by Australian ecological researchers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Mollison, considered the father of permaculture, has written and taught extensively on the topic, inspiring a worldwide movement with a broader focus on sustainable lifestyles.

Locally, there's a Permaculture Research Institute for Cold Climates, founded three years ago by Minneapolis anthropologist Guy Trombley as an information resource for northern gardeners.

"There was a lot being done in developing countries, which tend to be warm, tropical climates, but not as much in northern climates," he said. The Twin Cities also is home to a Permaculture Collaborative with approximately 200 members, said Trombley, who has led a number of permaculture workshops, including one last month at St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Deephaven.

"We want to be a model in the community, making our land more in sync with the Earth," said Judy Gregg, who coordinated the workshop.

"Interest [in permaculture] has really grown," said Minneapolis garden ecologist Paula Westmoreland, who designs and installs eco-friendly landscapes, including permaculture installations. "More people are concerned about climate change and interested in local food."

For more information, visit www.pricoldclimate.org.

KIM PALMER