Permaculture (1974 in Australia) and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
(MOFGA 1971) were conceived during the time of peak oil production in the United States, the
Vietnam War, burgeoning environmental awareness and knowledge that our processed foods
contain pesticides, and few vital nutrients. MOFGA is the largest and oldest state organic
association in our country. The Resilience Hub and Portland Maine Permaculture (2005) with
over 2000 subscribers is the fourth largest permaculture group out of 618 worldwide Meetups
groups. It can’t be coincidence that permaculture flourishes in a state nourished by MOFGA’s
persistence in promoting awareness and advocacy about the connection between healthy foods
and environmentally sound farming practices.
“It’s not like we know what we’re doing.” You might be surprised to hear that from a group of
people with many recent graduates of a Permaculture Design Certificates (PDC) class. Some of
us have been using organic methods to grow vegetables for almost a decade and, yet, working as
a group puts a novel emphasis on how to accomplish our tasks. Three Rivers Permaculture is at
the beginning stages of building trust with each other by sharing information and experiences
about how to grow local food. We’re working out a common identity. Eventually, we’ll be able
to develop shared work projects for our community based on resilient relationships between our
members. What’s behind our desire to come together as a group and work through such
challenging tasks? We’re scared. We are afraid the world of today is disintegrating and we aren't
content to sit back and watch without trying to change it.
Members of Three Rivers know a great deal about organic growing techniques and food species,
but not so much about working together as a team, working through consensus, and working out
the interpersonal conflicts that arise as differences split decision making and choices. There are
gaps in our collective food growing knowledge because we have not lived as farmers for most of
our lives but rather as growers of natural foods with supermarkets to rescue us from our crop
failures or from being totally self-reliant. Think “food.” What comes to mind? Fields of
vegetables or aisles in a supermarket? Or worse yet, a paper-covered hamburger in a cardboard
container with fries on the side? We’ve become disconnected from centuries of accumulated
knowledge about how to harvest, preserve and cook in harmony with seasonal availability. We
struggle as much as anyone with the inherent challenges of returning to local markets and home
grown produce. How will we do it?
Permaculture is about more than sustainable agriculture. It challenges us to transform our secular
lifestyle that has been created by “human progress” into a sacred relationship with our earth and
each other.The changes created to make our lives “easier” through mechanical substitutions for
manual labor, dependence on electricity, electronic gadgets, and suburbs that require
transportation in separate vehicles have all contributed to a rising sense of isolation and despair.
Permaculture asks us to build a different future to establish: fellowship with each other, links
with our neighborhoods, and participation in determining local sources of food; to develop
kinship with our land, our homes; sitting still to absorb the spirit of place (smell, sound, sight; of
soil, plants, and animals, cars, kids, airplanes, dogs, wind, rain); establishing a relationship with
the outdoors. We live as part of nature, not separately. Her actions and our actions are in constant
dialogue whether we are aware of it or not.
Permaculture adherents take the knife of “not knowing” between their teeth and say, “Let’s just
do it.” Someday we will be the elders our children remember who taught them how to thrive in
the face of adversity. We want to focus on local issues we can influence, local foods we can
grow in our yards, organic methods to turn lawns into living soils with edible ornamentals or
food crops, and expand local markets. We want to engage and encourage cooperative community
based gardens that lift and join our spirits and strengthen our connections with neighbors and
Gale Davison holds a Permaculture Design Certificate from completing the 2015 class offered
by The Resilience Hub and Portland Maine Permaculture. The 72 hour course was held over five
weekends beginning in May and ending in October on MOFGA’s Unity Maine Fairgrounds.
Gale has been the team leader for Three Rivers Permaculture since asking Sustain Mid Maine
Coalition (SMMC) to sponsor a permaculture group in January 2015. Three Rivers has been
meeting at regular monthly intervals and can be found on Facebook groups under Sustain Mid
Maine Permaculture or on SMMC’s new website page (http://www.sustainmidmaine.org/).
Last modified: March 7, 2017