Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts and Resources
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Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts and Resources

Steve Diver
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
© NCAT 2002



Photo of hands cradling seedling. -

This publication offers definitions and descriptions of permaculture and its central principles. It offers listings of resources and publications on permaculture in the United States, Australia, and worldwide.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Permaculture

The word "permaculture" was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David Holmgren. It is a contraction of "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture."

Permaculture is about designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is a land use and community building movement which strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way we place them in the landscape. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature.

A central theme in permaculture is the design of ecological landscapes that produce food. Emphasis is placed on multi-use plants, cultural practices such as sheet mulching and trellising, and the integration of animals to recycle nutrients and graze weeds.

However, permaculture entails much more than just food production. Energy-efficient buildings, waste water treatment, recycling, and land stewardship in general are other important components of permaculture. More recently, permaculture has expanded its purview to include economic and social structures that support the evolution and development of more permanent communities, such as co-housing projects and eco-villages. As such, permaculture design concepts are applicable to urban as well as rural settings, and are appropriate for single households as well as whole farms and villages.

"Integrated farming" and "ecological engineering" are terms sometimes used to describe perma-culture, with "cultivated ecology" perhaps coming the closest. Though helpful, these terms alone do not capture the holistic nature of permaculture; thus, the following definitions are included here to provide additional insight.

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Permaculture Defined

1. From Bill Mollison:

Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments.


2. From Cathe' Fish and Bill Steen, the Drylands Permaculture Newsletter, published 1988:

Permaculture: the use of ecology as the basis for designing integrated systems of food production, housing, appropriate technology, and community development. Permaculture is built upon an ethic of caring for the earth and interacting with the environment in mutually beneficial ways.


3. From Lee Barnes (former editor of Katuah Journal and Permaculture Connections), Waynesville, North Carolina:

Permaculture (PERMAnent agriCULTURE or PERMAnent CULTURE) is a sustainable design system stressing the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth.

To paraphrase the founder of permaculture, designer Bill Mollison:

Permaculture principles focus on thoughtful designs for small-scale intensive systems which are labor efficient and which use biological resources instead of fossil fuels. Designs stress ecological connections and closed energy and material loops. The core of permaculture is design and the working relationships and connections between all things. Each component in a system performs multiple functions, and each function is supported by many elements. Key to efficient design is observation and replication of natural ecosystems, where designers maximize diversity with polycultures, stress efficient energy planning for houses and settlement, using and accelerating natural plant succession, and increasing the highly productive "edge-zones" within the system.


4. From Michael Pilarski, founder of Friends of the Trees, published in International Green Front Report (1988):

Permaculture is: the design of land use systems that are sustainable and environmentally sound; the design of culturally appropriate systems which lead to social stability; a design system characterized by an integrated application of ecological principles in land use; an international movement for land use planning and design; an ethical system stressing positivism and cooperation.

In the broadest sense, permaculture refers to land use systems which promote stability in society, utilize resources in a sustainable way and preserve wildlife habitat and the genetic diversity of wild and domestic plants and animals. It is a synthesis of ecology and geography, of observation and design. Permaculture involves ethics of earth care because the sustainable use of land cannot be separated from life-styles and philosophical issues.


5. From a Bay Area Permaculture Group brochure, published in West Coast Permaculture News & Gossip and Sustainable Living Newsletter (Fall 1995):

Permaculture is a practical concept which can be applied in the city, on the farm, and in the wilderness. Its principles empower people to establish highly productive environments providing for food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs, including economic. Carefully observing natural patterns characteristic of a particular site, the permaculture designer gradually discerns optimal methods for integrating water catchment, human shelter, and energy systems with tree crops, edible and useful perennial plants, domestic and wild animals and aquaculture.

Permaculture adopts techniques and principles from ecology, appropriate technology, sustainable agriculture, and the wisdom of indigenous peoples. The ethical basis of permaculture rests upon care of the earth—maintaining a system in which all life can thrive. This includes human access to resources and provisions, but not the accumulation of wealth, power, or land beyond their needs.

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Characteristics of Permaculture

Pilarski, Michael (ed.) 1994. Restoration Forestry. Kivaki Press, Durango, CO. p. 450. Reprinted with permission from the author.
  • Permaculture is one of the most holistic, integrated systems analysis and design methodologies found in the world.
  • Permaculture can be applied to create productive ecosystems from the human-use standpoint or to help degraded ecosystems recover health and wildness. Permaculture can be applied in any ecosystem, no matter how degraded.
  • Permaculture values and validates traditional knowledge and experience. Permaculture incorporates sustainable agriculture practices and land management techniques and strategies from around the world. Permaculture is a bridge between traditional cultures and emergent earth-tuned cultures.
  • Permaculture promotes organic agriculture which does not use pesticides to pollute the environment.
  • Permaculture aims to maximize symbiotic and synergistic relationships between site components.
  • Permaculture is urban planning as well as rural land design.
  • Permaculture design is site specific, client specific, and culture specific.


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The Practical Application of Permaculture

Permaculture is not limited to plant and animal agriculture, but also includes community planning and development, use of appropriate technologies (coupled with an adjustment of life-style), and adoption of concepts and philosophies that are both earth-based and people-centered, such as bioregionalism.

Many of the appropriate technologies advocated by permaculturists are well known. Among these are solar and wind power, composting toilets, solar greenhouses, energy efficient housing, and solar food cooking and drying.

Due to the inherent sustainability of perennial cropping systems, permaculture places a heavy emphasis on tree crops. Systems that integrate annual and perennial crops—such as alley cropping and agroforestry—take advantage of "the edge effect," increase biological diversity, and offer other characteristics missing in monoculture systems. Thus, multicropping systems that blend woody perennials and annuals hold promise as viable techniques for large-scale farming. Ecological methods of production for any specific crop or farming system (e.g., soil building practices, biological pest control, composting) are central to permaculture as well as to sustainable agriculture in general.

Since permaculture is not a production system, per se, but rather a land use and community planning philosophy, it is not limited to a specific method of production. Furthermore, as permaculture principles may be adapted to farms or villages worldwide, it is site specific and therefore amenable to locally adapted techniques of production.

As an example, standard organic farming and gardening techniques utilizing cover crops, green manures, crop rotation, and mulches are emphasized in permacultural systems. However, there are many other options and technologies available to sustainable farmers working within a permacultural framework (e.g., chisel plows, no-till implements, spading implements, compost turners, rotational grazing). The decision as to which "system" is employed is site-specific and management dependent.

Farming systems and techniques commonly associated with permaculture include agroforestry, swales, contour plantings, Keyline agriculture (soil and water management), hedgerows and windbreaks, and integrated farming systems such as pond-dike aquaculture, aquaponics, intercropping, and polyculture.

Gardening and recycling methods common to permaculture include edible landscaping, keyhole gardening, companion planting, trellising, sheet mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses, spiral herb gardens, swales, and vermicomposting.

Water collection, management, and re-use systems like Keyline, greywater, rain catchment, constructed wetlands, aquaponics (the integration of hydroponics with recirculating aquaculture), and solar aquatic ponds (also known as Living Machines) play an important role in permaculture designs.

The Ethics of Permaculture

Permaculture is unique among alternative farming systems (e.g., organic, sustainable, eco-agriculture, biodynamic) in that it works with a set of ethics that suggest we think and act responsibly in relation to each other and the earth.

The ethics of permaculture provide a sense of place in the larger scheme of things, and serve as a guidepost to right livelihood in concert with the global community and the environment, rather than individualism and indifference.

  1. Care of the Earth
    ...includes all living and non-living things—plants, animals, land, water and air
  2. Care of People
    ...promotes self-reliance and community responsibility—access to resources necessary for existence
  3. Setting Limits to Population & Consumption away surplus—contribution of surplus time, labor, money, information, and energy to achieve the aims of earth and people care.

Permaculture also acknowledges a basic life ethic, which recognizes the intrinsic worth of every living thing. A tree has value in itself, even if it presents no commercial value to humans. That the tree is alive and functioning is worthwhile. It is doing its part in nature: recycling litter, producing oxygen, sequestering carbon dioxide, sheltering animals, building soils, and so on.

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The Principles of Permaculture Design

Whereas permaculture ethics are more akin to broad moral values or codes of behavior, the principles of permaculture provide a set of universally applicable guidelines which can be used in designing sustainable habitats. Distilled from multiple disciplines—ecology, energy conservation, landscape design, and environmental science—these principles are inherent in any permaculture design, in any climate, and at any scale.

  1. Relative location
  2. Each element performs multiple functions
  3. Each function is supported by many elements
  4. Energy efficient planning
  5. Using biological resources
  6. Energy cycling
  7. Small-scale intensive systems
  8. Natural plant succession and stacking
  9. Polyculture and diversity of species
  10. Increasing "edge" within a system
  11. Observe and replicate natural patterns
  12. Pay attention to scale
  13. Attitude

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Permaculture Resources

Four ways to learn about permaculture include: the permaculture design course, the permaculture literature, the Internet, and permaculture workshops.

The Permaculture Design Course is the primary vehicle for transfer of permaculture expertise. The standard course is 72 hours in length and lasts two weeks. Graduates are issued a permaculture design certificate and are entitled to use the term "Permaculture" in the pursuit of livelihood and for educational purposes.

The permaculture literature is a rich source of information on a wide range of topics dealing with land use, plant and animal agriculture, water management, appropriate technology, energy-efficient and toxic-free housing, and community design.

Since 1995, the Internet (e.g., World Wide Web and e-mail) has become an important resource and networking tool in the dissemination of permaculture information. A selection of Web sites is listed below.

Permaculture workshops are commonly held as one- to three-day events to provide training on technologies such as vermicomposting, solar greenhouses, straw bale construction, sheet mulching, and organic gardening.

Permaculture Resources in the United States

Permaculture Activist
P.O. Box 1209
Black Mountain, NC 28711
828-669-6441 Fax
$19/3 issues per year

Permaculture Activist is the leading periodical for North American permaculture, an execllent resource in print since 1985. Articles address permaculture, edible landscaping, bioregionalism, aquaculture, among other topics. It also provides a current listing of upcoming permaculture design courses and serves as an important networking tool in the U.S., Canada, and Central America. Back issues are available.

Earth Haven, the eco-village where The Permaculture Activist is published, hosts permaculture workshops and design courses on a regular basis. Altogether, a great place to obtain permaculture resources and participate in hands-on teaching.

Site contains a collection of permaculture forums, articles, videos, and an extensive list of resources.


Yankee Permaculture, Elfin Permaculture, Forest Ecosystem Rescue Network (FERN), Barking Frogs Permaculture Center
P.O. Box 52
Sparr, FL 32192-0052
Editor: Dan Hemenway

Barking Frogs Permaculture Center

A Guide to Yankee Permaculture Publications: 1983-1997


Yankee Permaculture carries a number of publications on permaculture specific to North America. Past issues of Dan Hemenway's publications are still used in permaculture courses and as reference guides. A complete listing of articles, information sheets, and publications is available at the Web site listed above.

The Resources of International Permaculture - TRIP. Volume 7 of TRIP, published in 1993, is a 68-page issue that contains 1,540 listings of groups working in permaculture, sustainable food systems, and tree-based agriculture. Current up-to-date listings are available on diskette.

The International Permaculture Solutions Journal (TIPS) and Permaculture Review, Overview and Digest (PROD) are published on a sporadic basis. TIPS and PROD feature permaculture articles, book reviews, and resources.

The International Permaculture Species Yearbook (TIPSY). Prior to TIPS, Yankee Permaculture put out a fantastic yearbook called TIPSY. The TIPSY series is a goldmine featuring plant species lists, articles, and resource listings.


Restoration Forestry
Friends of the Trees
P. O. Box 4469
Bellingham, WA 98227
360-671-9668 Fax
Editor: Michael Pilarski


Restoration Forestry: An International Guide to Sustainable Forestry Practices (1994) is a 525-page guide to resources in restoration forestry. It contains over 50 review articles, 780 organizations, 230 journals and periodicals, 800 books, 100 restoration forestry projects underway, and 100 directories on topics relating to Restoration forestry, forest ecology, tree seedlings, bioregionalism, and permaculture. It is a massive addition to tree-based agricultural literature. Cost is $27, plus $4 postage & handling. Agroforestry Guide to Hawaii: A Resource Guide Directory to Reforestation, Restoration, Forestry, Agroforestry, Permaculture & Sustainable Agriculture in the Hawaiian Islands (1997) is a 187-page directory with over 800 references. Cost is $22, plus $3.30 postage & handling.

Other publications from Friends of the Trees include the International Green Front Report (1988, $7.00); Kiwifruit Enthusiasts Journal (Vol. 6, $17.20); and Third World Resource Guide (1993, $5.00) and the West Coast Permaculture News & Gossip newsletter.


Permaculture Drylands Journal
c/o The Permaculture Institute
P.O. Box 156
Santa Fe, NM 87504-0156
Contact: Scott Pittman


Permaculture Drylands Journal was published in a 32-volume series, from 1987 to 1999, by Permaculture Drylands Institute, a non-profit organization that is currently in a state of dormancy. The PDI Web site is still active, and contains some helpful introductory information on permaculture as well as an index to back issues. PDJ focused on permaculture for arid lands, with a heavy focus on New Mexico and Arizona. Scott Pittman at The Permaculture Institute is a good person to contact for permaculture updates and activities in this region.


Temperate Bamboo Quarterly
Earth Advocates Research Facility
30 Myers Road
Summertown, TN 38483


Temperate Bamboo Quarterly is the quarterly journal published by Sue and Adam Turtle with Earth Advocates. It focuses on the bamboo plant which has unique, multi-purpose uses in agroforestry and permaculture. The Turtles operate a bamboo nursery, and TBQ has apparently taken a back seat and is currently dormant. Back issues of TBQ are highly recommended for anybody looking into bamboo in a temperate climate.


The Future is Abundant
First published in 1982 by Tilth, The Future is Abundant is a classic resource book on permaculture at the bioregional level. The book is out-of-print, though select portions may be available on the Internet.

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Permaculture Resources in Australia

Permaculture International Journal
Permaculture International Ltd.
P.O. Box 219
Nimbin, NSW 2480

Permaculture International Journal was the leading permaculture magazine for two decades, yet ceased publication in mid-2000. Permaculture International Ltd. continues its activities online, with a web page that features a newsletter, a global directory, an email discussion list, educational resources, and permaculture events in Australia. Back issues of PIJ, if they can be found in a library, contain a goldmine of useful information.


Tagari Publications - International Permaculture Institute
31 Rulla Road
Sisters Creek Tasmania 7325
Ph: 61 (0)3 6445 0945
Fax: 61 (0)3 6445 0944

The International Permaculture Institute in Tyalgum, Australia, serves as the international coordinating organization for permaculture activities such as permaculture design accreditation. Tagari Publications is the publishing group for Bill Mollison's publications.

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Permaculture Resources Around the World

Permaculture Magazine: Solutions for Everyday Life
Permanent Publications
Hyden House Ltd, The Sustainability Centre
East Meon, Hampshire GU32 1HR
Cost: U.S. $22, quarterly (available in the U.S. through The Permaculture Activist)

Permaculture Magazine is the premier glossy magazine on permaculture worldwide. Each issue is a joy to read, accompanied by color photos that illustrate permaculture in action, as well as products and resources to support sustainable living and learning. An assortment of topics addressed include permaculture, organic farming and gardening, agroforestry, tree crops, multi-use plant species, ecological design, and eco-architecture for temperate regions such as Europe and North America. A must-have subscription along with its North American companion, The Permaculture Activist.


Earth Repair Catalog - Permanent Publications UK

Permanent Publications also publishes a number of key books and videos on permaculture: Permaculture in a Nutshell, How to Make a Forest Garden, Plants for a Future, Permaculture Teacher's Guide, and The Synergistic Garden. The Earth Repair Catalog carries an extensive selection of books, videos, resources, and products for sustainable living: permaculture; organic farming and gardening; biodynamics; agroforestry; aquaculture; animals; ecological architecture; sustainable building technology; sustainable communities and eco-villages; as well as energy saving products and body products.


The Permaculture Association (Britain)
London, WC1N 3XX

Members receive a quarterly newsletter, Permaculture Works. The Association offers a range of learning activities, design courses, and diplomas, and publishes The Permaculture Teacher's Handbook.


eco-logic books
Mulberry House
19 Maple Grove
Bath BA2 3AF

eco-logic is a book distributor for specialized topics in self reliance, permaculture, and organic farming and gardening. One item, in particular, worth noting is the Manual for Teaching Permaculture Creatively published in 1991 by Robin Clayfield and Skye, two well known permaculture teachers. This is a loose file with over 300 A4 pages of notes and excercises for teaching, including: games, teaching tips, and other creative ideas.


Permaculture Villager / Forestry for a Small Planet
Food & Trees for Africa
P.O. Box 2035
Gallo Manor 2052

Two online newsletters dealing with permaculture, tree crops, agroforestry, tree planting, and community forestry in South Africa. A notable source of grassroots information, contacts, and resource listings for Africa. Back issues are available from 1995 through 1999.


Kenya Institute of Organic Farming
John Wanjau Njoroge, Director
P.O. Box 34972
Nairobi, Kenya

A Resource Guide of Organizations Promoting Organic Farming in East Africa Region is a 116-page resource guide edited by John Kanyuiro, Kihia and John Wanjau Njoroge of the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming - KIOF. It provides names, contact information and brief descriptions of organizations working to promote, research or support organic agriculture in East Africa.


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Books on Permaculture

Introduction to Permaculture. 1991. By Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay. Tagari Publishers, Tyalgum, Australia. 198 p.

Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements, 3rd Edition. 1987. By Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Tagari Publishers, Tyalgum, New South Wales, Australia. 127 p.

Permaculture Two: A Practical Design for Town and Country in Permanent Agriculture. 1979. By Bill Mollison. Tagari Press, Stanley, Australia. 150 p.

Permaculture: A Designer's Manual. 1988. By Bill Mollison. Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, Australia. 576 p.

Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. 2001. By Toby Hemenway. Chelsea Green Pub. Co., White River Junction, VT. 222 p.

The Best of Permaculture. 1986. By Max O. Lindegger and Robert Tap. Nascimanere Publishers, Nambour, Australia. 136 p.

The Permaculture Way: Practical Ways to Create a Self-Sustaining World. 1992. By Graham Bell. Thorsons, London. 239 p.

The Permaculture Garden. 1994. By Graham Bell. Thorsons, London. 170 p.

Permaculture: A Beginner's Guide. 2001. B Graham Burnett. Land and Liberty, Westcliff On Sea, Essex, England. 60 p.

Urban Permaculture. 1993. By David Watkins. Permanent Publications, U.K. 152 p.

Permaculture in a Nutshell. 1993. By Patrick Whitefield. Permanent Publications, U.K. 75 p.

Earth User's Guide to Permaculture. 1994. By Rosemary Morrow and Rob Allsop. Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW Australia. 152 p.

Getting Started in Permaculture. 1998. By Ross and Jennifer Mars. Candlelight Trust, Hovea, Western Australia. 96 p.

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A Few Good Books for the Permaculturist's Bookshelf

Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants. 1998. By Stephen Facciola. Kampong Publications, Vista, CA. 713 p.

Designing & Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally. 1986. By Robert Kourick. Metamorphic Press, Santa Rosa, CA. 370 p.

Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. 1987. By J. Russell Smith. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 408 p.

The Permaculture Book of Ferment & Human Nutrition. 1993. By Bill Mollison. Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, Australia. 288 p.

Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape. 1996. By Robert A de J Hart. Chelsea Green Pub. Co., White River Junction, VT. 234 p.

How to Make a Forest Garden, 3rd Edition. 2000. By Patrick Whitefield. Permanent Publications, East Meon, Hampshire, England. 168 p.

Water for Every Farm: Yeoman's Keyline Plan. [Date]. By Ken B Yeomans and P.A. Yeomans. Keyline Design, Southport, Queensland, Australia. 261 p.

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Agroforestry Resources

Temperature Agroforestry Systems. 1997. Edited by Andrew M. Gordon and Steven M. Newman. CAB International, New York, NY. 269 p.

This is a landmark book on agroforestry for temperate regions. Chapters include agforestry practices in North America, New Zealand, Australia, China, and Europe. Read this book for working examples of permaculture on a broad-scale.


North American Agroforestry: An Integrated Science and Practice. 2000. Edited by H.E. (Gene) Garrett, W.J. (Bill) Rietveld, and R.F. (DicKB] Fisher. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI. 402 p.

A collection of eleven chapters originating from an agroforestry symposium. This is a typical academic book from American Society of Agronomy, but that should not deter the practitioner, teacher, or student from seeking this book as an important contribution to this topic, especially for North American agroforestry. Chapters address: ecological foundation for temperate agroforestry; agroforestry nomenclature, concepts and practices; windbreak, silvopastoral, alley cropping, riparian forest buffer, and forest farming practices; among others.


Agroforestry in Sustainable Agricultural Systems. 1999. Edited by Louise E. Buck, James P. Lassoie, and Erick C.M. Fernandes. Lewis Publishers, CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FL. 416 p.

A collaboration between Cornell University and ICRAF, this is another recent addition to the academic literature on agroforestry. Like much of the international literature on agroforestry, a large portion of this book is geared to tropical systems. The seventeen chapters address: nutrient cycling in tropical agroforestry systems; animals and agroforestry in the tropics; water management with hedgerow agroforestry; black walnut agroforestry in Missouri, U.S.A.; silvopastoralism; pest management; propagation; trees in managed landscapes; ethnobotany; sustainable mulch-based cropping systems with trees; among others.


The Overstory Book. 2001. Edited by Craig R. Elevitch and Kim M. Wilkinson. Permanent Agriculture Resources, Holualoa, HI.

The Overstory Book distills essential information about working trees into 72 short, easy-to-read, single-subject chapters. Cost is $40, plus shipping. CD's are available for $16.95 plus shipping.

Agroforestry Net, Inc.
P.O. Box 428
Holualoa, HI 96725
808-324-4129 Fax


Agroforestry Today
ICRAF -- International Centre for Research in Agroforestry
P.O. Box 30677
Nairobi, Kenya
Inquire regarding subscription fee/1-4 issues per year

Agroforestry Today is a quarterly magazine that carries reports from around the world on farming systems that focus on the integration of trees, crops, and livestock, and the people who raise them. It is one of the leading voices for agro-forestry worldwide. While the content deals mostly with sub-tropical and tropical agro-forestry, much of the information has universal applications (e.g., mycorrhizae, on-farm research methods, soil-plant interactions, tree establishment methods, etc.)



unasylva is the quarterly magazine of Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO. It also has an international focus and therefore tropical systems and developing country technologies are its primary concern, but nonetheless it is a valuable resource on tree crops, special forest products, and related topics of interest. Back issues are availabe online as PDF's.


Association for Temperate Agroforestry (AFTA)
School of Natural Resources
1-30 Agricultural Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211

$25/year membership fee includes subscription to The Temperate Agroforester, quarterly newsletter. Previous editions of Introduction to Permaculture included citations to proceedings of the biennial North American Agroforestry Conference series. These proceedings can now be found on the AFTA Web site. The AFTA Web site also provides a series of introductory information leaflets on agroforestry practices: Alley cropping; Silvopasture; Forest Farming; Riparian Buffers; and Windbreaks.


USDA National Agroforestry Center
North 38th St. & East Campus Loop
University of Nebraska - East Campus
Lincoln, NE 68583-0822

Publishes InsideAgroforestry newsletter, provides technical assistance to landowners on windbreaks and agroforestry, sponsors research, and publishes a number of very informative and practical bulletins and publications.
P.O. Box 428
Holualoa, HI 96725
808-324-4129 Fax

The website for Craig Elevitch and Kim Wilkinson, publishers of The Overstory e-newsletter (highly recommended), as well as publications from Permanent Agriculture Resources: Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, Nitrogen Fixing Tree Start-up Guide [PDF/586K], A Guide to Orchard Alley Cropping [PDF/404K], and other bulletins and resources.

E-Mail Discussion Lists, Web Forums, & e-mail Web Archives

The Permaculture Mailing List | Hosted at

Information about the list, subscribe & unsubscribe.

Current Web Archives for Members at (January 2002 to present)

Permaculture Archives. For the web researcher, Larry London (host of PermaSphere at has a collection of old, yet still-useful email archives at:

Permaculture Forum at Permaculture the Earth

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Permaculture Web Links and Resources

Manuals, Primers, and Syllabi on Permaculture

A Permaculture Primer
By Dan Earle and Sue Hutchins

Permaculture - Sustainable Farming, Ranching, Living... by Designing Ecosystems That Imitate Nature
By Sandy Cruz and Jerome Osentowski, a 6-page Western SARE leaflet [PDF/577K]

The Ethics and Principles of Permaculture
By David Holmgren; transcription from design course held at Tir Penrhos Isaf in Wales.

The Essense of Permaculture
By David Holmgren

An extract from Permaculture: Principles and Pathways To Sustainability. Holmgren, the co-creator of permaculture, provides a nice summary of the ethics and principles behind permaculture design. The Permaculture Design System Flower goes with this piece, accessible through the PDF version, as well as here in HTML:

Collected Writings of David Holmgren 1978-2000

A collection of twenty-seven magazine articles, conference papers, public lectures, book reviews, and other works by David Holmgren, co-creator of permaculture. Holmgren has made these PDF's available on the web as screen-readable only. A CD version is for-sale, which allows full access including print as well as permission to copy and use for workshops. Altogether, a valuable contribution to the web from someone who's spent a lifetime developing and working out the details of permaculture design.

Permaculture: A Beginner's Guide
By Graham Burnett

This 60-page booklet is a permaculture-for-dummies style primer with lively illustration, covering permaculture ethics and principles. A nice learning tool to capture the essence of permaculture in a nutshell.

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On-Line Articles, Fact Sheets & Proceedings

Permaculture: Sophisticated Ecological Understanding Blended with Common Sense Design Creates Productive Landscapes
by Sego Jackson. IN CONTEXT #8, Winter 1984.

Permaculture: Design For Living
by Bill Mollison. IN CONTEXT #28, Spring 1991

On-Line articles on Permaculture the Earth

Building A Bamboo Farm: Using Permaculture Principles in Bamboo Agroforestry by Simon Henderson.

Constructing the Food Forest Orchard by Larry Santoyo

Sixth International Permaculture Conference & Convergence
Perth & Bridgetown, Western Australia September 27 to October 7, 1996

An online proceedings with about 100 papers and abstracts; an important web resource.

Saving Mallee Soils -- Organic Broadacre Farming: Improvements to the Environment and Productivity
Organic Agriculture at FAO, Case Study Report from Australia

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Permaculture in North America

EcoLandTech + PermaSphere
Larry London's collection at

Friends of the Trees

Permaculture Institute

Permaculture at Heathcote Intentional Community

Three Sisters Permaculture Design

La'akea Permaculture Gardens

Animal Farm Permaculture Center

Permaculture the Earth

Murad's Permaculture Pointers

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Permaculture in Australia

Permaculture International Ltd

International Permaculture Institute (Australia)

Permaculture Visions International

Sixth International Permaculture Conference & Convergence
Perth & Bridgetown, Western Australia September 27 to October 7, 1996

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Permaculture in Europe

Permaculture Magazine/Permanent Publications

The Permaculture Association (Britain)

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Permaculture Around the World

The Permaculture Activist's Planetary Permculture Directory

Instituto de Permacultura Cerrado-Pantanal -- Brazil

Register of Best Practices of Indigenous Knowledge


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Plants for Permaculture

Plants for a Future: Edible and Useful Plants

The Vetiver Grass Network

The American Bamboo Society

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Permaculture Technologies

Keyline Design - Water for Every Farm

Alternative Technology Association (ATA)

The Solar Cooking Archive

Sustainable Building Sourcebook

Ocean Arks International

Integrated Bio-Systems in Zero Emissions Applications

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Bioregional & Eco-Village Links

Global EcoVillage Network

Intentional Communities

Crystal Waters Permaculture Village

Earthaven Eco-Village

Arcosanti (Arizona)

Auroville (India)

Virtual Libraries on Permaculture & Sustainability

Sustainable Architecture Building & Culture

Agroforestry Web Sites

Agroforestry in Minnesota

Association for Temperate Agroforestry (AFTA)

USDA National Agroforestry Center

Agroforestry for Farms & Ranches
NRCS, Agroforestry Technical Note No. 1

International Ag-Sieve: Agroforesty Special Issue
Volume II, Number 4 (1989)

The Illinois Virtual Forest: Agroforestry Web Links
University of Illinois Extension

Agroforestry Research Trust

International Union of Forestry Research Organizations

ICRAF - International Center for Research in Agroforestry

Cultivating the Forest: Development of Agroforestry Systems
People and Plants Handbook Issue 5
WWF, UNESCO and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Holistic Management

Holistic Management International

Holistic Management: A Whole-Farm Decision Making Framework

About this Publication

Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts and Resources is a revised and updated version of The Permaculture FAQ, which was originally published by the author on the World Wide Web in 1995 and 1996.

The Permaculture FAQ 1.3, May 1996

A permaculture design course graduate, the author is a technical specialist in horticulture and agronomy at ATTRA, the national sustainable farming information service managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

The focus of ATTRA is on farming systems that enhance the economic livelihoods of farm families while sustaining the environment. ATTRA provides resources and technical assistance to commercial farmers, including small farmers and market gardeners, in the United States. Accordingly, the focus of this publication in on permaculture in the temperate U.S. with some emphasis on broad-scale application such as agroforestry and bio-integrated production systems.


Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts and Resources
By Steve Diver
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
Tracy Mumma, HTML Production


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This page was last updated on: August 28, 2014