Permaculture in Maine

November 5, 2015

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 (

Last modified: March 7, 2017

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