In 1870, 70-80 percent of the US population was employed in agriculture. As of 2008, less than 2 percent of the population is directly employed in agriculture. This fact alone is a demonstration of modern post-industrial society’s disconnect from it’s sustenance and nourishment. In 2013, the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a report stating that small-scale, sustainable agriculture is the only way to feed the changing world. The crux of the matter seems to me to be that the farther we are disconnected from our food source, the less thought we give to Earth and the land that produces it.
It appears as though efforts are being made to reverse this. Laura DeLind writes of people returning to agriculture with a strong moral guidance. She emphasizes the importance of place, societal roots, and personal investment in a place in order to restore balance. This attitude has strong parallels and intersections with Permaculture. The concept of agriculture being restorative and regenerative is one of the fundamental meanings of Permaculture to me.
This all lends itself to another key concept addressed in the Whyte’s book excerpt: Food as power. Not in the more corruptible sense of monetary gains or political sway, but in terms of self-determination, and self-reliance. Teaching a person, particularly one that is disenfranchised, to produce their own food can give them a strong sense of self-worth and reliability. It is a very powerful thing. Doing this, while giving them the tools to take care of Earth, themselves and others helps to create a healthier, more sustainable future for us all. My hope is that the work done on the Permaculture food forest this semester can be a place from which to begin empowering others in this way, a starting line of sorts.-Kevin