Please read The Permaculture Diet (Part 1) for more background information. The photo above is local produce from our organic farm market, meat from our local beef producer, and eggs from one of my patients!
After developing the Permaculture Diet, I decided to try it for a week. As of today, I am 6 days into it. I wanted to share a few of my thoughts and experiences so far.
I gave myself one day preparation. “Let’s just jump in”, I thought. As it turns out, this was not so easy to do. I currently live on a very small island in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean. My garden is small, young, and I don’t really have a lot of choices when it comes to food.
Remember, Step One: Produce all your own food in a way that cares for the Earth and for People. I have been here for just about a year. I got some seeds into the ground by Autumn last year, but this was my first Spring garden at this location. Fortunately the garden is growing well. Unfortunately, it is small and not producing much food yet. I figured I was too late for an Autumn/Winter garden last year, but I chanced it anyway. Well, many of the seeds ended up waiting to germinate until this Spring. I have been eating beets, broccoli, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, and fava beans from the planting last Autumn. The garlic from my sprouted cloves are also providing some additional harvest now (see my article on what to do with sprouted garlic bulbs). I am also eating snow peas and the occasional yellow summer squash now from my Spring planting. The tomatoes are setting fruit, but no harvest yet. I have a number of other plants growing, but we will see how they do. Overall, it is a small garden and is producing only a small amount of food, so this makes Step One difficult to complete.
Step Two: If you cannot complete Step 1, then get to know the people who produce all your food, and make sure they are caring for the Earth and People. I am very glad to have an organic market here on the island. It is quite small and does not stock a lot of food, but it is something. I know one of the farmers, and he is a Permaculturist, which is fantastic. Also, there is a local dairy and beef producer who, while not a Permaculturist, raise their animals in a very ethical manner. The animals are almost entirely grassfed as well as hormone and chemical free. They also sell some of the local organic fruits and veggies in their store.
Still, between these two locations, choice is limited. I am envious of those living in larger cities on the mainland who can go to a farmer’s market or organic grocery store.
I have also been very fortunate to have an elderly German couple, patients of mine, bring me eggs once a week. They have a small homestead and raise their animals in an “organic” manner, just without the certification. They are in their 80’s, and they have been following something very close to my Permaculture Diet for years. This is likely one of the reasons they are both still so healthy!
Considerations for the Permaculture Diet
You need to cook. If you don’t cook at all, trying to eat within these ethical guidelines is going to be very tough. I am sure if you live in a large city with a good organic and/or Permaculture scene, you could probably make do, but even that would be tough or expensive or both. I think a person should know how to cook for a large number of reasons, but I think it is vital if you want to be successful with this plan.
You need to source all your food. This is also tough. Until I actually started to apply these ethics to everything I ate, I never thought too much of where my salt comes from and how my black pepper is harvested and does that organic milk my kids are drinking come from a farm that produces sustainably. It can be a bit overwhelming.
You need to prepare. While I cook a lot and prepare a lot of my own staples (e.g. chicken or beef stock, sauces, spice mixes), the time I decided to start this experiment was about the same time I had just run out of most of my prepared foods. We had also just finished our supply of local fruit, meat, and eggs, and we just finished our veggies from my garden. If I was going to do this for one week, especially to feed others, I would have had more of my own staples ready and restocked. As it is, I am skipping a few meals this week because I only gave myself one day to prepare! Which leads me to my next point…
You need to ease into it. While it is gimmicky to follow the Permaculture Diet for a week like I did, the goal of the Permaculture Diet is to change our minds and our communities toward sustainability. If you have the ability to make this change, 100%, overnight, then that is amazing. Please let me know where you live! Most others will need to learn to garden, learn to garden better, or learn to manage their gardens more appropriately so that they have a steady harvest all year round. It will take time to source all your food, get to know your local food producers, and build relationships with them. It will take time to learn to eat in season. It will take time to learn to cook certain food, cook them better, or cook them with more variety so you don’t get burned out on one food.
Compromises I Made
I have not followed my own rules as strictly as I would have wished. The main reasons are due to the considerations I listed above. Also, I am cooking for my family; and three children, five years old and under, are not going to be real happy if they need to miss a few meals this week bacause their dad is performing an experiment. I still used salt and pepper and a number of other spices, and I have no idea where they originated or how they were produced. I did chose to use a few staples like olive oil and butter and chicken stock as well, even though I did not verify their sustainability.
The Way Forward
I would highly recommend every one try to follow the Permaculture Diet for one week. I am not selling anything. I am not writing a diet book. It is just an experiment. At the minimum, it will make you more mindful of where your food comes from and how it is produced. At best, it will catch on and spread through your local community. If everyone demanded that their food was produced in accordance to the Ethics of Permaculture, we would be living in a truly sustainable world in no time at all!
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Photo References: The photos in this article are mine. Please ask if you would like to use them!