What is it and why do you need to know?

Civilization is built on top of agriculture. Agriculture is dependent upon both ecology and fossil fuel. Both are running out. Our job? Redesign civilization within the next decade. This is the problem. Permaculture is the solution.

So What is Permaculture Exactly?

Imagine a world where your home, garden, business, and community align seamlessly with the rhythms of nature, creating a thriving ecosystem. Permaculture, the art of regenerative design, tackles big problems – and solves them – with sweeping effects. It offers a regenerative solution for property design, rebuilding ecosystems and communities, thus creating sustainable human habitats.

Permaculture Definition

“Permaculture is a holistic agricultural and land management design approach that seeks to mimic natural ecosystem patterns to achieve sustainability and efficiency. It’s a philosophy and practice of creating self-sustaining ecosystems by integrating human activity with natural surroundings, with goals of minimizing waste, preventing pollution, and enhancing sustainability, resiliency, and biodiversity. This approach extends beyond agriculture to include principles of ethical land use, recycling, renewable energy use, and low-impact living, aiming to produce food and use land in a sustainable, non-destructive manner. Coined by Bill Mollison, permaculture combines the concepts of permanent agriculture and culture, focusing on responsible production and stewardship of the land.”

Why does it matter?

Permaculture revolutionizes our approach to living sustainably. A blend of age-old wisdom with modern, innovative design ideas, permaculture nurtures the environment and empowers individuals to self-reliance. It fosters food security, cultivating a positive, resilient mindset that transforms our connection with the Earth into a harmonious, joyous journey toward a thriving future.

We are beginning to realize that the world faces more profound challenges than our small, simple habits can overcome. Instead of simply…

  • Going ‘green’
  • Bringing reusable bags to the grocery store or coffee cups to Starbucks
  • Or, switching your light bulbs

We need more extensive solutions that work in synchronicity with natural processes and systems and offers…

  • a holistic approach to the environment that individuals can implement on their own with massive positive impacts
  • a creative and sophisticated approach that promotes community-building backed by the principles of life and science
  • a locally appropriate and inclusive solution that propels us forward and acknowledges the blues jeans and designer suits reality we currently live in

Is Permaculture the solution? Verge’s Vision.

It is our goal, through teaching permaculture and regenerative skills, to grow the number of humans creating a life of abundance that supports the well-being of themselves, their communities and the world.

The real benefit of Permaculture?

Permaculture provides a big-picture perspective. Permaculturists are using this systematic, regenerative approach to gardening and farming to create self-sustaining ecosystems that reduce our environmental footprint, rebuild soil ecology, and grow abundant food

It’s about finding inspiration, hope, and real solutions for our planet’s future! Permaculture can…

Rebuild soil and create lush biodiverse oases in years instead of decades.

Use plants to transform sewage a into clean, drinkable water source.

Build local renewable energy installations and self-sustaining gardens.

Offer a low-stress approach to integrating animals on your property to renew degraded soil.

Utilize leading-edge clean technology to build low-energy, self-reliant homes.

Give you clear principles and tactics for strategic property design & development.

And so much more!

Ultimately, permaculture fosters a more harmonious relationship between humans and their environment, promoting long-term sustainability and ecological balance. Through homesteading, you can achieve food security, self-reliance, flourishing soils, resilience in the face of change and a legacy of positivity for generations yet to come. 

It’s not just a journey; it’s a transformative adventure for you and the planet.


A Brief History of Permaculture

In the mid 1970’s, Australian University Professor Bill Mollison and his grad student David Holmgren started to develop ideas about stable agricultural systems. This was in response to the rapid growth of destructive industrial-agricultural methods. They saw that these methods were poisoning the land and water, reducing biodiversity, and removing billions of tons of topsoil from previously fertile landscapes. They announced their “permaculture” approach with the publication of Permaculture One in 1978.

The term permaculture initially meant “permanent agriculture” but was quickly expanded to also stand for “permanent culture” as it was seen that social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable system. To find out about the roots of Permaculture, get ahold of a copy of Permaculture One, Mollison and Holmgren, 1978.

Permaculture Ethics

Permaculture stands out from other farming methods like organic or sustainable agriculture due to its ethics, which promote responsibility towards each other and the earth. These ethics guide us towards a sustainable coexistence with the global community and the environment, countering individualism and indifference.

The ethics on which permaculture builds are:

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Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply
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Care of people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence
Setting limits to population and consumption: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

And that leads us to principles…

Key Permaculture Principles

Permaculture principles are adaptable and ever-evolving. As new research unfolds, these principles flex to embrace fresh knowledge, creating a pathway to a harmonious and sustainable future.

“Your problem is your solution – We need to be solutions-focused instead of problem-focused”

David Holmgren Principles of Permaculture:

The 12 principles of permaculture

David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept, has formulated several principles of permaculture. These principles are intended to guide people practicing permaculture in creating sustainable, productive systems that integrate the land, resources, people, and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies. They emphasize working with nature, rather than against it.

  • Observe and Interact – Effective design is a reciprocal relationship between people and nature, dependent on thorough observation and respectful interaction.
  • Catch and Store Energy – Find efficient ways to catch and store natural and renewable forms of energy, such as capturing sun, wind or water flows.
  • Obtain A Yield – Create self-sustainable systems by effectively using your stored energy to continue the cycle independently.
  • Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback – Using the natural positive and negative feedback systems that occur in nature to create a self-reliant and self-regulating system.
  • Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – Design a system that uses renewable resources as successfully and sustainably as possible.
  • Produce no waste – Effective designs use waste as a vital part of the solution (instead of destruction), leading to a sustainable cycle that naturally evolves.
  • Design from Patterns to Details – Optimize your design using a top-down approach. Observe patterns that are naturally occurring in nature and replicate the design for human use.
  • Integrate Rather than Segregate – Create an integrated system where plants, animals and people rely on the other components to thrive and support their way of life, instead of a hierarchical system.
  • Use Small and Slow Solutions – Effective designs support energy efficiency and self-reliance on the smallest scale possible.
  • Use and Value Diversity – Diversity at the forefront of your permaculture system avoids creating a system susceptible to vulnerability.
  • Use Edges and Value the Marginal – Create a system that values and effectively uses the terrestrial ecosystem to create a bridge between the non-living mineral weather and the atmosphere.
  • Creatively Use and Respond to Change – Successful homestead designs are a system of perseverance that can effectively survive and thrive through change.

What about Permaculture Zones?

You might have heard about Permaculture Zones, but not sure what they are all about.

Zones and sectors at a farm scale mapping

Permaculture zones organize a landscape into sections based on the frequency of human use and the types of activities carried out in each area. This concept helps in efficient land use and energy conservation. The zones are typically numbered from 0 to 5:

  • Zone 0: The home or central living space. It’s the most frequently used area, including the house and its immediate surroundings.
  • Zone 1: Areas requiring regular attention, like kitchen gardens with herbs, salad crops, and other vegetables that need daily or frequent care.
  • Zone 2: This zone requires less frequent maintenance. It includes larger vegetable plots, perennial plants, orchards, greenhouses, and small animal shelters.
  • Zone 3: An area for large-scale agriculture, including main crops, larger livestock, and storage facilities for large-scale produce. These areas require occasional visits and maintenance.
  • Zone 4: Semi-wild areas. This zone is used for foraging, collecting wild foods, timber production, and as a buffer zone for wind, noise, and pollution. It requires less human intervention.
  • Zone 5: The wilderness area. It’s left untouched, allowing natural ecosystems to flourish and provide a habitat for wildlife. Human interaction is minimal, mostly for observation and learning from nature.

Understanding and implementing permaculture zones effectively allows for a sustainable and efficient use of space, resources, and energy in a permaculture design. Read more about permaculture zones and how to make use of them at your property.

So what are some common permaculture practices?

Now we’re getting into the good stuff, the nitty gritty!

Permaculture draws from concepts of agroforestry, applied ecology, organic farming, and sustainable development. Common permaculture practices focus on sustainable land use and ecological balance, and they include:

  • Companion Planting: Growing different plants together to enhance growth, deter pests, and maximize space.
  • Mulching: Using organic materials to cover soil, conserving moisture, improving fertility, and preventing weed growth.
  • Rainwater Harvesting: Collecting and storing rainwater for garden and agricultural use.
  • Vermicomposting: Using worms to convert organic waste into high-quality compost and soil conditioner.
  • Hügelkultur: Creating raised garden beds filled with rotting wood and organic matter for improved soil fertility.
  • Rotational Grazing: Moving livestock between pastures to improve soil health and grass growth.
  • Swales and Contour Planting: Landscape features for water management, preventing erosion and maximizing water use.
  • No-till Gardening: Avoiding soil disturbance to maintain soil structure and biodiversity.

Understanding and implementing permaculture zones effectively allows for a sustainable and efficient use of space, resources, and energy in a permaculture design. Read more about permaculture zones and how to make use of them at your property.

Permaculture Success Stories

Over the past 20 years the Verge Academy has trained more than 15,000 permies from 30 different countries. Here’s a snippet of some of those awesome students who have taken their permaculture journey to the next level. 

aasha and avanthi williams

Aasha and Avanthi are two Engineers from Calgary who took our Summer 2020, online PDC. They worked together to produce a model site for their friend with a property in the Kootenays. This aided them to practice designing land at a large scale before they purchased their own property in the future.

To learn more head over to their Alumni page

brandon scherling

Brandon is a Contractor, Builder and Woodworker who took our Verge 2020, OPDC. His expertise is in construction and he first spent a lot of time building structures that used energy inefficiently. He saw an opportunity to expand the scope of his business to build the style of structure he knew made much more sense: passive homes and greenhouses.

To learn more head over to his Alumni page


Nikki is a business owner who took the Verge PDC. Nikki was a full-time teacher who worked with complex learners. While teaching, she noticed major issues appeared to vanish when her students were outside. This inspired her to begin a nature-based arts and workshop program for kids while building her career as a visual artist. She started her company, Plein Air Outdoor Arts and discovered her ability to help people build relationships with the wild and wonderful world through creative exploration.

To learn more head over to her Alumni page

How can you get started in Permaculture?

Well, the journey begins with you! First, you’ll need to decide on your priorities and what you want to achieve. We have all of our students to write down their vision on a single piece of paper and then we give them a decision-making framework to help them get started.

Here are some things to think about, which Rob walks through in more detail in his intro to permaculture video (at the 50m23s mark

  • Start by clarifying your vision, embracing your values and taking stock of the resources at your disposal.
  • Dive into exploration as you diagnose your property and its resources, uncovering not just strengths and weaknesses but also exciting and potential growth opportunities.
  • Channel your creativity to design your property in alignment with your vision and values.
  • Take empowered steps toward implementing your design, focusing on uplifting your weakest resource and setting the stage for positive transformation.
  • Finally, vigilantly manage and monitor your property, celebrating indicators of well-being and addressing any challenges with resilience.

What Is The Five-Step Permaculture Process?

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  • Clarify your vision, values and resources
  • Diagnose your resources for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Design your resources to meet your vision and values
  • Implement the right design that will most improve your weakest resource
  • Monitor your resources for indicators of well-being or suffering

And you can also help yourself by avoiding some of these mistakes

Ready to get started?

Rob and Michelle Avis walking with their dog along a forest pathway

Embrace the power of permaculture and contribute to a sustainable future for all! Take the first step toward a thriving, harmonious lifestyle. Explore, design and cultivate positive change today. Join the permaculture movement for a better tomorrow—your journey starts here!

Free Permaculture E-Book!

Permaculture Foundations Ebook cover

Being at the forefront of a growing movement is exciting! We want you to have the skills and knowledge to succeed in your permaculture goals. If you’re still looking to understand permaculture better before diving into a full, permaculture design course, this is for you! Our FREE, Foundations E-Book teaches you the essentials.

Tools & Resources 

Explore our resources to learn about starting your homesteading journey and establishing your own secure supply chain. 

Permaculture Resources


How is permaculture different from Organic gardening or Regenerative agriculture?

Permaculture is more than just gardening. It’s a system based on relationships supporting communities’ ability to thrive through vulnerability. Permaculture combines permanent + culture + agriculture, so while organic gardening is a good tool, the cyclical nature of permaculture takes it further. It’s a design that integrates all components of nature and beings into one integrated system to support sustainable living.

What is the purpose of permaculture?

At the simplest level, permaculture’s purpose is to ensure the continued longevity of the Earth and everything on it. In his book “Introduction to Permaculture,” Bill Mollison states, “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”

It’s about creating a harmonious settlement where humans and ecosystems live and thrive together—changing our current trajectory to a more positive and sustainable one.

Is it hard to get started with Permaculture?

Absolutely not! Here’s the thing: every design is different and individually tailored based on your needs, resources, time and space. You design the system, so with a little bit of research and determination, you’ll have your own thriving ecosystem in no time. But, if you need some guidance to get started, you can always join Verge’s PDC program to ensure you’ve created the best, most effective and most ethical design possible.

Where can permaculture be practiced?

Anywhere! The principles apply to more than just agriculture. They become a way of life. Since you create your design, you can work with what you’ve got. Some people will have a simple backyard they can transform into a permaculture garden, others have a balcony in a condo they can turn into a mini-permaculture space, while others have a much larger space and can create a Permaculture Farm. 

You can also create a starting point and expand as you go. We’ve had students so excited to learn that they did a practice run on a friend’s property before they could upgrade their own home. It’s about getting creative and having the passion to create a system that goes further than yourself and your needs.

What are the limitations of Permaculture?

The most significant limitation is a lack of knowledge and, therefore, a lack of funding. First, people simply don’t know about permaculture. You can’t implement a system that you don’t know about. Or even if they have, many aren’t sure how to proceed.

When it comes to farmers, many have never heard of a permaculture design and some can be hesitant to try something new. Why fix what ain’t broke? (But isn’t it broken?) Change can mean a lot of work, and uncertainty can be a considerable risk when your livelihood depends on guaranteed success. However, widespread educational efforts are being made by experts and passionate individuals. Permaculture is growing in awareness and popularity and is well on its way to being a household name.

Do you need to be good at gardening to practice permaculture?

No way! First, permaculture principles apply to more areas of life than just gardening. Still, the best part is, anyone can learn gardening. And if you think you don’t naturally have a green thumb, signing up for our free live webinar and learn everything you need to know from start to finish, to create and implement your own permaculture system. All skill levels are welcome.

Can you do permaculture in cold weather climates?

Sure you can! Let’s Calgary as an example. The climate in Calgary is notably variable and challenging for gardening due to its proximity to the mountains. The region, often referred to as the “Hail Belt,” experiences unpredictable weather patterns, including frequent thunderstorms and hail ranging from pea to golf ball size. This unpredictability necessitates constant vigilance and the development of resilient gardening strategies. Go check out this video of Rob speaking with Carmen and Christian from Urban Farm School. Urban Farming & Cold Climate Permaculture in Calgary Alberta

I like to read. What are some books on Permaculture you recommend?

There are lots of books that have been published on the subject. To find out about the roots of Permaculture, get hold of a copy of Permaculture One, Mollison and Holmgren, 1978. Our other favorites include;

  • Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison, 1988
  • Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison, 1991
  • Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, Rosemary Morrow, 1994
  • The Basics of Permaculture Design, Ross Mars, 1996
  • Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, Toby Hemenway, 2000
  • Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren, 2003
  • Building Your Permaculture Property: A Five-Step Process to Design and Develop Land (2001) – From our very own Rob Avis (link)

Have Questions?

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