ABOUT 49 FARMS & URBAN PERMACULTURE
GLOBAL GARDENER WITH BILL MOLLISON 

A city's organic waste problem may have found a solution in Urban Permaculture. Bill Mollison tours a few of the urban gardens who transform the city's waste into compost and use it to build up the soil as high 4 feet off of the asphalt.

The Declaration of Interdependence

In pursuit of the harmonious integration of landscape and people.

Earth Rise

We are a rapidly growing organization of urban permaculture designers, educators and students. Our prime directive is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. We have come together to help create and maintain urban agriculture projects throughout San Francisco. Our efforts focus on research, education and demonstration. We strive to design and share examples and experiences highlighting one of the basic principles of urban permaculture design, that “the problem is the solution.” 

The problem. 

We begin with the premise that all life on Earth is facing a critical time, during which survivability will be the issue that increasingly dominates public concern. Where survivability is not the issue, the quality of human experience of life may be, as well as the decline in health of the natural world as reflected in the loss of biodiversity, cultural diversity, and the planet's life support systems.

The root causes of this situation include basic values embodied in our economic system, including the values of the corporate world. Primarily among the problematic corporate values are the primacy of expansion and short-term profit over such other considerations as quality, sustainability, environmental and human health, and successful communities.

The fundamental goal of this organization is to operate in such a manner that we are fully aware of the above conditions, and attempt to re-order the hierarchy of corporate values, while designing solutions that enhance both human and environmental conditions.

The solution. 

Introduced to us by Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Geoff Lawton, Penny Livingston-Stark, Brock Dolman, Kat Steele, Starhawk, Fred Bove, Kevin Bayuk, David Cody and many others, permaculture is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture. Urban Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems within our cities which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without this there is little possibility of a stable social order.

Urban Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms.

The philosophy behind Urban Permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.

As the basis of Urban Permaculture is beneficial design, it can be added to all other ethical training and skills, and has the potential of taking a place in all human endeavors. With such a broad landscape, however, Urban Permaculture concentrates on already-settled areas and the supporting agricultural lands of the bio-region. Almost all of these need drastic rehabilitation and re-thinking. One certain result of using our skills to integrate food supply and settlement, to catch water from our roof areas, pavement, and other impermeable surfaces, and to place nearby a zone of urban food forest which receives wastes and supplies energy, will be to free most of the area of the globe for the rehabilitation of natural systems. These need never be looked upon as “of use to people”, except in the very broad sense of global health.

The real difference between a cultivated (designed) ecosystem, and a natural system is that the great majority of species (and biomass) in the cultivated ecology is intended for the use of humanity or their livestock. We are only a small part of the total natural species assembly, and only a small part of its yields are directly available to us. But in our own urban farms and gardens, almost every plant is selected to provide or support some direct yield for people. Household design relates principally to the needs of people; it is thus human-centered (anthropocentric).

This is a valid aim for settlement design, but we also need a nature-centered ethic for wilderness conservation. We cannot, however, do much for nature if we do not govern our greed, and if we do not supply our needs from our existing settlements. If we can achieve this aim, we can withdraw from much of the agricultural landscape, and allow natural systems to flourish.

Recycling of nutrients and energy in nature is a function of many species. In our urban farms and gardens, it is our own responsibility to return wastes (via compost or mulch) to the soil and plants. We actively create soil in our gardens, whereas in nature many other species carry out that function. Around our homes we can catch water for garden use, but we rely on natural forested landscapes to provide the condenser leaves and clouds to keep rivers running with clean water, to maintain the global atmosphere, and to lock up our gaseous pollutants. Thus, even anthropocentric people would be well-advised to pay close attention to, and to assist in, conservation of existing forests and to assist in, the conservation of all existing species and allow them a place to live. 

We have abused the land and laid waste to systems we never need have disturbed had we attended to our home gardens and settlements. If we need to state a set of ethics on natural systems, then let it be thus:
  • Implacable and uncompromising opposition to further disturbance of any remaining natural forests, where most species are still in balance; 
  • Vigorous rehabilitation of degraded and damaged natural systems to stable states; 
  • Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the least amount of land we can use for our existence; and 
  • Establishment of plant and animal refuges for rare or threatened species. Urban Permaculture as a design system deals primarily with the third statement above, but all people who act responsibly in fact subscribe to the first and second statements. We believe we should use all the species we need or can find to use in our own settlement designs, providing they are not locally rampant and invasive.
Our Values 

We acknowledge the environmental, as well as social and economic crises, and turn to the basic values of the corporate world as part of the problem. As global and local citizens, we share the responsibility of offering solutions which extend beyond the urban farms and gardens, and into the spheres of organization models, decision making, conflict resolution, alternative economic infrastructures and trading systems, urban planning, land-use and development, and an open model of community participation.

To help achieve these changes, we will make our operating decisions based on the following list of values. They are not presented in order of importance. All are equally important. They represent an "ecology" of values that must be emphasized in economic activity that can mitigate the environmental and social crisis in our times.
  • All decisions of the organization are made in the context of the environmental crisis. We must strive to do no harm. Wherever possible, our acts should serve to decrease the problem. Our activities in this area will be under constant evaluation and re-assessment as we seek constant improvement. 

  • Maximum attention is given to the three ethics of permaculture, as defined by Bill Mollison. 
    • Earth Care 
    • People Care 
    • Fair Share 
  • As well as the twelve principles of permaculture as outlined by David Holmgren: 
    1. Observe and interact 
    2. Catch and store energy 
    3. Obtain a yield 
    4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback 
    5. Use and value renewable resources and services 
    6. Produce no waste 
    7. Design from patterns to details 
    8. Integrate rather than segregate 
    9. Use small and slow solutions 
    10. Use and value diversity 
    11. Use edges and value the marginal 
    12. Creatively use and respond to change
  • With respect to the services, products and experiences we offer and share, we hold an appreciation for the kind of beauty that emerges from the patterns found in nature. Concern over transitory fashion trends is specifically not a core value. 

  • We recognize that successful communities are part of a sustainable environment. We consider ourselves to be an integral part of our community that also include our volunteers, the communities in which we live, our neighbors, supporters and partners. We recognize our responsibilities to all these relationships and make our decisions with their general benefit in mind. It is our policy to empower people who share the fundamental values of this organization, while representing cultural and ethnic diversity. 

  • Without giving its achievement primacy, we seek to meet our needs from our activities through the raising of funds. However, growth and expansion are values not basic to this organization. 

  • To help further the impact of our activity, we impose on ourselves an annual tax of one percent of our gross sales, or ten percent of profits, which ever is greater. All proceeds of this tax are granted to local community and environmental activism. 

  • At all levels of operation we encourage pro-active stances that reflect our values, ethics, and principles. These include activities that influence the larger corporate community to also adjust its values and behavior, and that support, through activism and financial support, grassroots and national campaigners who work to solve the current environmental and social crisis. 

  • In our internal operations, we will work as a group, and with maximum transparency. This includes an "open book" policy that enables the community easy access to decisions, within normal boundaries of personal privacy and "trade secrecy." At all levels of organization activity, we encourage open communications, while we simultaneously seek dynamism and innovation.
Urban Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems within our cities which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.

Ethics

  • Earth Care 
  • People Care 
  • Fair Share 

Principles

  1. Observe and interact 
  2. Catch and store energy 
  3. Obtain a yield 
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback 
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services 
  6. Produce no waste 
  7. Design from patterns to details 
  8. Integrate rather than segregate 
  9. Use small and slow solutions 
  10. Use and value diversity 
  11. Use edges and value the marginal 
  12. Creatively use and respond to change 
SF Mayor signs 'The Salad Bill', April 20, 2011
On April 20, 2011, Mayor Lee signed legislation that allows for "urban agriculture" throughout the city, including the sale of produce from gardens. 

Read more on SF Gate >>