A volunteer-led collaborative effort saw teams at The College of New Jersey come together and plant 15 hazel trees as an exercise in permaculture.
Permaculture is an alternative solution to traditional agriculture. Crops that are popular today are farmed on a flat plot of land. Corn fields stretch across the Midwest, taking up miles of land that can only be used to grow and harvest corn. Even peanuts are exported in mass volume. In 2013 the USDA found that there were 350,000 tons of peanuts exported.
The ways permaculture differ from the land-intensive system we use today are sustainability, self-sufficiency, and biodiversity. All of this on top of producing something (or things) that humans can consume.
Taking a layered approach to agriculture is the way of the future for Natalia Da Silva, one of the student volunteers for the hazel tree project, who told The College of New Jersey Newspaper, “The trees require very little input on our end, which is great for the environment and great in terms of water conservation.”
Though they aim to prevent pesky squirrels from stealing the hazelnuts, the fact that there are squirrels at all shows the effectiveness of ecosystem building, one of the tenets of permaculture. This idea is gaining steam.
Ecomodernism is based on a collaborative manifesto suggesting the cessation of destructive relationships between humanity and the environment as a necessary step toward future positive environmental relationships. The eco modernists take a scientific approach to solving these very real problems.
Under a permaculture system it wouldn’t matter if a square foot of soil contained between 98 and 3,068 viable weed seeds. The added biodiversity of a permaculture farm would provide more variety for sustainable life that would either eat the weeds or out-compete them for sunlight.
Many positive environmental impacts could be made through permaculture, but there still remains resistance to these new ideas.
Until these ideas are widely adopted, volunteers like those studying at TCNJ will continue environmental sustainability efforts in hopes of impacting the way we farm globally.