A few years ago, I was introduced to Jeremiah Bullied.
In the fine-dining world, very rarely do you meet someone with truly impressive hobbies- normally the hours, the sheer exhausting physicality, and the late, late nights prevent chefs from embracing everything that one is supposed to cultivate in their 20's- no band, no books, no subscription to the New Yorker, no vegetable garden*, no sports teams, and certainly no obscure, time-consuming hobbies that require you to leave town for extended stretches of the weekend.
Jeremiah, however, has some truly impressive hobbies. He plays in a kick-ass surf-garage band that sounds like time went backwards and sucked the 1974 NYC punk scene into 1969 California.
He has a killer garden, including cherry trees. On the roof of his restaurant.
Most importantly, he is a trained Permaculturalist.
There is no confirmed "father" of permaculture, but the first and possibly best book I have ever read on the subject was by Masanobu Fukuoka, called the One Straw Revolution. He advocates a kind of non-interference technique when cultivating the land, including a minimal approach to pruning trees, not flooding rice paddies to prevent weeds, and other 'radical' approaches to agriculture.
Permaculture goes deeper than that. It contends that agriculture is not the trunk of human food production, but instead a particularly outgrown branch. Permaculturists argue that we got along just fine for millennia by optimizing the production of food around us without necessarily controlling for as many variables as possible.
Permaculture says- spend a long time setting things up, so that in the end you do next to nothing. Make the water, the nutrients, and the sunlight in your food-territory (be it a balcony or a mountainside) work towards the production of calories you enjoy, and let the natural balances of ecosystems bear you the fruits of your labours.
Permaculture also teaches us to design ourselves into the mix, which I find delightful. I've heard of permaculture "builds" where the family designs the site to be one day split between their children, 30 years down the road. I find that compelling.
The first time I saw a permaculture site that was really going strong, it was shocking.
There was food everywhere. On the trees. On the vines on the trees. In the high bushes around the trees. In the perennial vegetation everywhere. In the tubers growing below the vegetation. In the mycelium running through the soil and sprouting mushrooms.
A beautiful display of planning; optimizing an ecosystem for a family to be the 'mammals'
in it, and then providing the correct nutrients back to those plants by virtue of a few other non-competing animals. Guinea hens. A goose.
An ecosystem designed for a human harvest. Almost a casual harvest- the way an animal might forage.
Fascinating stuff. I have Jeremiah to thank for the intro.
*okay, grow ops. chefs do have grow ops.