Biomimicry for Food Explained: Will Hooker's Urban Permaculture Garden

When we covered the concept of Permaculture here, Warren described it as 'biomimicry for food'. While some commenters did point out that permaculture can be utilized way beyond food production systems (it is a big influence on the Transition Towns movement, for example), it seems fair to say that gardening, agriculture and food production are still a central focus of what permaculture is all about. We have just come across a great practical example of how permaculture models nature in the form of an article in Innerchange Magazine. The author, Will Hooker, is a permaculture activist and Professor of Lanscape Design at NC State University. He lives on 1/5 of an acre in downtown Raleigh, NC, yet manages to grow a staggering amount of food. Part of his garden design includes an ingenious system for a partially self-feeding, self-cooling chicken run. Details over the fold.

" in Nature there is no such thing as the human-created concept of 'waste.' [ ]To protect the chickens from predators at night (dogs, raccoons, possums, etc.), we built a lockable, welded wire cage. Because chickens need to be cool in the heat of our summers, we grow our grape vines over this arbor/cage. Japanese Beetles love grape leaves, so they will go to our arbor first before searching for other delectable plants. The defense mechanism for Japanese Beetles is that they simply drop whenever danger lurks, so we shake the arbor first thing in the mornings when we go out to feed and let the chickens out. You are likely guessing and are correct that chickens simply LOVE Japanese Beetles. So, we have a complete system: Security from predators, shade, a protein source for our chickens, control of insect pests, and a protein source for us in the form of eggs. In addition, the chicken coop is located immediately adjacent to our production garden, and once a week, we take the straw bedding and ground covering from the coop and pen and throw it over the fence into a pile in our garden space. This is spread around our plants and becomes the main source of fertilizer for our year-round greens, our veggies, herbs, and our fruit-bearing species of trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers."

The rest of the article explores the history and concept of permaculture, details of Will's garden, his rainwater harvesting systems, and how Will and his family design their lives to have as small an impact as possible. Will ends with an inspiring and hopeful vision of the future, arguing that we should not aim for self-sufficiency or independence, but rather we should embrace the 'interdependent relationship with the people of our local communities.' Call it permaculture, call it biomimicry, call it what you want, if careful observation and immitation of nature can help us towards such a future, we're all for it. We suspect Will's chickens are too...

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