I have heard this argument quite often in permaculture circles, from people trying to ‘disprove’ permaculture:
“Permaculture can’t provide ALL of your food. You can’t grow coffee, bananas, etc. etc. everywhere. So how can permaculture provide all of your food? What if you live up north?”
Well, the answer seems obvious to me, but apparently it’s not to everyone.
In order to have our land provide all our food, we need to change the way we eat. We need to adapt our diets to the land we live in. And if we live in a place that has a cold winter where nothing grows, we need to learn to preserve our food.
Now, I’m not preaching here. I don’t have land of my own, so I don’t supply all of my own food, by any stretch of the imagination. I go to the grocery store and buy what I want, when I want it, just like everyone else.
But I’m starting now to learn how to change my diet, cook differently, and incorporate far more fruits and vegetables into my diet which I could reasonably grow myself where I live. And some day I hope to be doing just that.
The first thing I needed to wean myself off of was industrial processed foods. I mean, it isn’t even really food, so my body has thanked me tremendously. It is loaded with sugars and salts – not to mention all the chemicals – and it’s the sugars and salts that have me so addicted to it – especially sugar. mmmmm sugar…
So I’m learning to cut those things from my diet. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s kinda painful trying to cut out sugar. But the process really keeps me thinking about what I put into my body, and noticing how I feel when I’m eating real food. Maybe I’ll get there one day. But today, I’m having cookies!
Things we can start learning to do
I want to learn to bake with ingredients that I can actually grow myself. Tree nuts can be turned into flours, and I can could hazelnuts here. Quinoa as well. Eggs and honey can be raised at home. Yeasts can be captured in sourdough starters.
I’ll have to learn an entirely new way of cooking. But how satisfying would it be to create baked goods from my own homegrown ingredients? I might not be making light and fluffy breads and cakes, but I’ll be making healthy, organic food that actually gives my body what it needs. And I find that prospect exciting.
As far as fruits and vegetables go, we’ve been spoiled rotten by grocery stores. We can get what we want, whenever we want, whether it is in season or not. And we can also buy things that can’t even be grown where we live.
If I wanted to grow all my own food, I would need to learn to eat seasonally. In the spring, greens are in abundance, and in the fall, root vegetables and squashes are everywhere. And in between, I could add in annual vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, and zucchini; and perennials such as berries.
It’s important, when planning our gardens, to think about how we can have food growing in all seasons possible. The earliest greens, summer vegetables and fruits, fall potatoes and carrots and squashes, dried peas and beans, etc.
And then we need to learn to preserve what we grow for the lean times when nothing is growing in the garden. My favorite thing right now is fermenting. So delicious.
Where I live now, it is possible to grow some things all year long. With my garden being entirely in the shade during the winter months, nothing actually grew; but it did stay alive, and that’s almost as good. I had kale, chard, leeks, and carrots in the garden all winter long. Plus herbs such as lemon balm, rosemary, thyme and oregano. Pretty cool.
The first thing I’ll do when I have property of my own will be to get perennial food systems going. Fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and perennial vegetables are an important part of any sustainable food growing system. They really help make our food supply more stable and diverse.
Obviously, if I’m wanting oils for cooking, I’d need a big chunk of land in order to grow oil seed plants. But, I can have a couple of cows to make butter, and pigs for lard, on a smaller piece of land. Butter and lard would cover just about any oily bits I might need.
Is self-sufficiency even possible, or desirable?
So, to the people who say that we can’t provide all our own food, I say, “Yes, we can. But we have to change how we eat.”
But in all honesty, I think that it might be taking self-sufficiency a bit too far to expect everyone to be able to supply EVERYTHING they need. I mean, where will you get salt? And who even has enough hours in the day to make, grow, and source EVERY DANG THING they need to live? Nobody.
And that’s why permaculture doesn’t advocate becoming an island unto yourself, but to learn to live as community members, supporting each other, with each providing a different element of the necessities of life.
Traders have been a part of society for ages. That’s how people discovered other kinds of foods, other lands, and other people.
Why would you want to grow everything you need to eat? Wouldn’t you want to be part of a gardening community with whom you could barter and trade? You get a little bit of what they’re growing, and they get a little bit of what you’re growing – I think that is the true spirit of permaculture.
My journey continues…slowly
It’s hard to let some things go. I love banana bread, but bananas sure don’t grow here. So I’m really starting to think more about what I think I ‘need’ to eat, and what I just ‘want’ to eat.
I also use other types of fruit and veg to make sweet bread, such as zucchini and squash; so I will stop buying bananas, and just use what is in season where I live. Eventually.
Oh, but I’ll keep buying chocolate. Because . . . chocolate.
Drop me a note below in the comment box, and tell me what you’re having a hard time giving up, all in the name of self-reliance and health.
Health, Hope & Happiness