The idea of permaculture was created in the 1970’s by an Australian named Bill Mollison. It is based on practices that have been used around the world for thousands of years.
Our ancestors were able to live in the same place for hundreds of generations, because they took care to preserve their land and its ability to provide resources. Today, many of us live in places as though we don’t intend to stay for very long, taking whatever we need and leaving nothing for future inhabitants.
Permaculture, which stands for permanent agriculture or simply permanent culture, is a method for living sustainably on the land, by working with nature rather than against it. It is based around a set of twelve guiding principles. One of these principles is to obtain a yield. That is, permaculture practitioners seek to produce something useful from their land.
Historically, the purpose of turf grass is to not produce anything. For this reason, permaculture practitioners often fill their yards with vegetable gardens, edible wild plants, chicken coops, rain barrels, and compost piles. All of this may look messy and unmanaged to a traditional gardener, but if asked, the permaculture practitioner will likely be able to describe an elegant system that lessens their dependency on big corporations and industrial food production.
The Madison Area Permaculture Guild was founded in 2013 and has an active e-mail discussion group with about 400 members. They are happy to help newcomers learn about permaculture. For those who prefer to learn on their own, free online courses are available.