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Permaculture Is the New Black

health lifestyle


Boston University


Permaculture Is the New Black

A new way to help the environment includes a trip to Bali

Alyssa Pereslete


So what exactly is Permaculture?

The term was first coined by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, in the 1970s and describes a philosophy of working with nature and not against it. The concept is simply to follow nature’s own patterns in designing human agricultural systems.

Nathan Pflaum has done exactly this in Ubud, Bali. Almost two years ago, Nathan turned a quarter acre plot of land in the middle of rice fields into a permaculture farm. Good Earth Farm is now home to 5 goats, 2 rescue dogs, two species of ducks, chickens, and aquaculture.

A year ago I was fortunate enough to visit Good Earth Farm and experience permaculture and sustainable agriculture first hand. Last week I was able to catch up with Nathan to discuss the farm and his passion for permaculture.

"For me, sustainable farming is taking all elements into consideration and ensuring that there is regeneration- elements being the land (soil and plants), animals, humans and natural resources. It's really important to me that the amount of energy going into the farm or crops or animals is not greater than what comes out. Any system that requires more input than output is not going to be a lasting system since eventually all resources are limited."

Natural ecosystems, like forests, are self-sustainable. The energy required is provided and the waste is recycled. Every part of a natural ecosystem works together and all aspects perform important and necessary tasks.

While Nathan showed me around his farm, he emphasized that every crop and plant was native and adapted to the Ubud locale, an emphasis of permaculture.

Each area is zoned and absolutely nothing is wasted. Everything is used multiple times. Water from roofs, showers and sinks get redirected for storage or into natural water filtration systems. Food scraps are eaten by dogs and humans, and any leftover fruit is fed to the ducks or goes to compost.

"I've always been keen on nature and biology, and the interest in farming came when I had the opportunity to start working some land next to my house. From there I did more research on different kinds of farming and sustainable practices. The more I studied the more I realized so many systems are not sustainable and require much more input. Another big thing was the huge amounts of monoculture (only planting one crop) that goes on all around me with the rice farming, as it requires large amounts of chemical inputs and leaves the farmers with little control over their crops since they need to buy hybrid grains every year. I wanted to show that it is possible to grow a massive variety of crops (polyculture) all together and get good yields with reduced chemical inputs," Pflaum went on to explain.

On a far larger scale, permaculture has a focus on soil health and carbon sequestration.

By limiting the amount of uncovered soil, minimizing tilling, and emphasizing above ground perennial biomass, Good Earth Farm greatly reduces the amount of carbon lost and released as CO2.

If widely implemented, these simple and easy practices have the potential to sequester billions of metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. If combined with a large reduction in fossil fuel emissions, it could massively help climate change and the atmosphere.

Even on as small a scale as a windowsill, anyone can apply permaculture methods.

"At home pretty much anyone can start composting or vermiposting (using worms). There are lots of cheap and easy systems to set up that don't smell. That's a big thing, a lot of people think compost will stink but if you have enough carbon in there and just give it a bit of monitoring it won't smell. Both of those solutions are really easy and it creates soil which can be used to start growing things, even if just for salad greens or herbs on the windowsill," Nathan recommended.

During my time in Bali I learned a great deal about permaculture and sustainable farming. Most of the food I ate was produced by the farm, and one evening we made a special dinner with ingredients we had gathered that afternoon.

Permaculture is important because it is a design for food production that has the potential to go beyond sustainability. The energy put into the system is less than the energy used from the system in its lifetime. The closer we begin to work with nature, the greater the possibility of establishing a balance between providing the things we need and not hurting the environment in the process.

Nathan is doing what he can for the Earth, and it’s time we all start doing what we can too.

Last year Nathan had a Good Life Retreat at the farm and neighboring resort Naya Ubud, with a 6 day retreat of yoga and permaculture in which he taught about permaculture, Balinese culture, farm animals, homegrown food and sustainable solutions.

I believe he is doing another in 2017. Here is your excuse to take a life changing trip to Bali and learn about helping the environment in the process!

Here's to living more sustainably one choice at a time!

Learn more about Good Earth Farm and see more photos: