Permaculture Explained (Vol III Issue 3): Obtain a yield

"You can't work on an empty stomach"

This principle is like an order. Make sure that every time you design a house, garden, park, or school, it includes elements that will provide real tangible yields, whether they are food, fibres, timber, fuel, education, or enjoyment. Wade Muggleton from the Station Road Permaculture Garden, tells us more.

“One of the criticisms often levelled at permaculture is that there is little statistical data about yields. We cannot quote poundage of this crop or that crop produced per square meter or acre in the way that conventional agriculture does. 

Whilst this lack of numerical evidence is seen as a weakness of the permacultural case, for me the argument misses the point.

The sort of production many of us are involved in is actually the opposite of farming. Farming in the conventional sense is about producing a large amount of a single crop in order to sell it for money, whilst the garden or allotment level of permaculture is about producing small quantities of many crops in order to put food on the table on as many days of the year as possible.

We grow 20 different types of vegetable and 26 different types of fruit. I cannot give you any quantifiable data on yields in terms of kilograms produced of each; my life is too busy for all that weighing, measuring and recording.

Every item of food we grow and eat is an item that doesn't have to come from somewhere else. That has huge implications on land use, habitat loss, water consumption, transport, energy, carbon footprints, packaging and wastage home and abroad.

Yield for us is measured in the number of times we eat from the garden - be it vegetables, salad crops or fruit, sometimes 5 or 6 items in a meal and whilst it isn’t a scientifically measurable yield, it is representative of the way people lived in the past, eating by the season and by availability.

Once the season has turned it is the stored yield that comes into it’s own in the bags of potatoes, strings of onions, trays of apples etc.

Permaculture and ‘growing your own’ isn’t about self-sufficiency; that would be ludicrous - I can’t grow pasta, olives, rice, etc but what we can do is be self sufficient to varying degrees in the things we can grow.

If as many of us as possible grow our own and so by percentage reduce our demands on the wider world, then that is positive powerful environmentalism."