Sustainable living to be focus of class series

The Peace Nook and Center for Sustainable Living will offer a course on permaculture.
Monday, February 20, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:21 a.m. CDT, Sunday, June 22, 2008

You don’t have to be a farmer to be smart about your land. Through an introductory course, people can learn about the benefits of permaculture.

Permaculture is a design science for sustainable living, which emphasizes the relationship between ecology, landscaping, gardening and architecture in creating a space that is environmentally sound. The term was developed in the mid-1970s by Australian ecologists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren; it is a contraction of “permanent agriculture.”

Bob Kremer, a U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist and an MU professor of soil science, said it is important for Americans to learn about permaculture because the country’s food system is vulnerable to environmental factors such as bad weather and diseases.

Toward that end, the Peace Nook and the Center for Sustainable Living will offer a five-week series of classes on permaculture beginning Thursday.

“Permaculture should be considered as an alternative to overcome those types of problems,” Kremer said, adding that “it might solve problems that have yet to arise.”

Leigh Lockhart, the owner of Main Squeeze Natural Foods Cafe and a fan of perma-

culture, said the science makes as much sense practically as it does environmentally. She said using the land’s topography to determine what to plant eliminates costly upkeep, transportation fees and frustration.

“If we don’t have a great, happy planet to live on, then everything else is a moot point,” Lockhart said.

She also said agriculture is a large part of what makes regions unique. Planting with the land in mind, she said, was the model before the emergence of look-alike subdivisions and processed food.

“We’re all kind of, as a culture, going back to our roots and to what makes sense, rather than trying to fight the environment,” Lockhart said.

Although Lockhart practices perma-

culture on a personal level, figuring out how to implement its theories on a broader scale is a work in progress.

The Land Institute, a nonprofit research group in Kansas, is the first organization to begin addressing such principles. Through its Natural Systems Agriculture program, the institute is working to create a method of farming that mimics rather than subdues natural systems.

Ken Warren, managing director of the institute, said the program is still in the development phase, adding that the group essentially is trying to restructure the agricultural systems of Kansas and Missouri.

Kremer agrees such efforts are preliminary.

“Permaculture could have future potential, but it’s going to take a lot more studying and innovative research to get it to a practical means,” he said.

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