The coming week and months will offer signs that permaculture, a landscape design system that promotes growing food in sustainable ways in residential yards and small local farms, is taking root in Charleston.
Permaculture, which has evolved since its original coining as “permanent agriculture” in 1978, means different things to different people.
And, Charleston Permaculture Guild’s Chris Carnevale has his own definition. “Permaculture helps you design the landscape to meet your needs, so taking the time to properly design what you want is an investment that pays off in the long run, and can help you maximize your yields in multiple forms, including beauty, food and wildlife habitat,” says Carnevale, who co-founded the guild in 2012.
“But permaculture design isn’t a one-off event. It will continue to inform your mind’s eye for years to come and help you observe, tweak and adjust things to keep getting better.”
He hopes upcoming events will help provide locals with better understanding of permaculture design and practice.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, permaculture expert and author Peter Bane will talk on “Food Sovereignty” at the College of Charleston. Bane is author of “The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country,” published in 2012.
And starting Feb. 14, a permaculture design certification workshop in South Carolina will be conducted by Nick Tittle, co-founder of Surplus Permaculture Design and the farm manager for the new Fresh Future Farm in North Charleston.
The 12-day course will be held on alternating weekends until April 26. The dates are Feb. 14-15, Feb. 28 and March 1, March 14-15, March 28-29, April 11-12 and April 25-26. The locations will be in the Charleston area, but the venue will depend on the subject to be discussed.
The 62-year-old Bane, who lives in Bloomington, Ind., says he was drawn to permaculture 25 years ago primarily for reasons of social reform. He saw that Americans had lost control of their food system and that it had led to an array of ills, from the rise of obesity and degenerative diseases to the decline of the small family farmer and environmental destruction.
Practicing permaculture, Bane says, and bringing back the “home economy” are the best ways to reverse those ills.
“The answers (to regaining control) pointed us to taking more responsibility for the food we eat,” says Bane, adding he sees hope in the generation of young adults taking an interest in growing food in a sustainable way.
Ultimately, Bane says the United States needs 50 million new community-based farmers to replace the chemicals and machinery now employed by industrial agriculture.
Tittle is among that new crop of farmers. Though only 27, he immersed himself in permaculture while living in Thailand for five years after graduating from the University of South Carolina, where he earned a degree in business management and entrepreneurship.
After Thailand, he moved to Oakland, Calif., which he describes as “a hotbed of permaculture” and quickly realized he was more needed in South Carolina and the Southeast than California. That sentiment was confirmed at a recent permaculture conference he attended where he was the only representative from the Palmetto State and one of a few from the Southeast.
Tittle adds that Charleston is a fertile place for permaculture to grow, in part because “the vibe is local” and could set an example for the rest of the state and the Southeast.