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Urban permaculture: farms in the city

Posted by Anna Carlini on 23 May 2017 at 12:21 pm

 “You can solve all the world's problems in a garden.” 

Geoff Lawton

Perhaps not completely, but it is certainly a good place to start. The ingredients in our meals travel thousands of miles just to get on to our plates. Our cities are physically and mentally distanced from agricultural areas, and yet are no less dependent on them. As the size and population of our cities boom, this separation is becoming increasingly unsustainable. By growing our own food in our gardens we could cut down on transport costs and emissions and reconnect our urban lifestyle with where food truly comes from.

One way to empower individuals to make these changes is through the adoption of permaculture; an ethos which seeks to create efficient ecosystems and live more sustainably.

Permaculture aims to observe the characteristics of natural eco-systems and imitate them to produce food in an environmentally friendly way. There are three core ideas at the heart of permaculture: care for the Earth, care for people and fair share. “Observe nature thoroughly” is essential to this ethos and encapsulates the desire to work with the land rather than against it. This sentiment is in contrasts to the highly intensive “taking” attitude of mass agriculture today. Permaculture is not, however, restricted to the expanses of countryside in the rural areas of the UK.

The growing phenomenon of urban permaculture promotes a different way of designing, growing and living within our cities. Urban permaculture aims to revive the connection between city and agriculture. It encourages people living in urban areas to mimic ecosystems to produce their own food and conserve energy. By embracing permaculture in our cities we can cut down on food miles and maximise the masses of potential that are left untapped. 

Adherents of urban permaculture have a very different perspective on city life to the ordinary person. There are many things that can be done within an urban garden to create a space where ecosystems can flourish and crops produce reasonable yields. Where city-dwellers see air pollution, permaculture sees an overabundance of a resource in the wrong place. Where we see limited ground space permaculture sees an opportunity for raised beds. These self-contained growing containers maximise the space of a garden and provide people with the opportunity to design ecosystems in an otherwise concrete terrain.

(Photo of Penney and Gil’s multi-level garden- maximising every aspect of the garden)

Where we see dirty shower water, permaculture sees a resource that can be used to irrigate and feed crops. Chris and Rosie, owners of a Superhome in Essex, have created a system which incorporates the natural slope of their garden to irrigate their crops with greywater from the house.

There are many ways to create a permaculture garden, but creativity and observation are essential to make the transformation. Although permaculture gardens are initially hard work, the benefits could be huge: cutting down on food miles, bills and the weekly shop.

Chris and Rosie have extended the principles of permaculture to their home and to their lives. They are a prime example of individuals taking on the world’s problems in their own back yard.

Penney and Gill's superhomes page

Chris and Rosie's superhomes page

Image: Chris and Rosie's permaculture garden

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