David Holmgren

David Holmgren is an Australian permaculture designer and teacher.  He is a founder of the permaculture movement and a coauthor of the original permaculture publications, along with Bill Mollison.

David Holmgren owns and operates Holmgren Design, a permaculture design and development consultancy in Central Victoria, Australia.  He has written several important permaculture books, and he is also one of the driving forces behind the website www.permacultureprinciples.com

Image of David Holmgren

Photo from Permaculture Principles channel on Youtube

David Holmgren Life and Works

David Holmgren was born in Western Australia in 1955.  He met Bill Mollison when he entered the Environmental Design School in Tasmania in 1973.  Together, Holmgren and Mollison developed a theory for a sustainable agricultural system based on perennial food sources arranged in a naturally layered pattern.  They coined the term "permaculture" to describe their ideal of permanent agriculture, and permaculture was born.

"When we work with nature instead of trying to impose our will, the solution is often found within the problem." - David Holmgren

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Holmgren and Mollison first put their thoughts into writing for an article titled "A Permaculture System for Southern Australian Conditions" which was published in 1976 in the regional newsletter Tasmania's Organic Farmer and Gardener.  David Holmgren was 21 years old when this first work was published. 

In the aftermath of their initial publication, the two also collaborated on the book Permaculture One, which was published in 1978.  Shortly after completing the book with Mollison, David Holmgren moved to his family's private property in New South Wales.  He dedicated himself to putting the ideas of permaculture into practice, and demonstrated the effective application of these concepts at various sites around Australia.

Permaculture Installations

David Holmgren's most famous permaculture installation is at his home Melliodora in Hepburn Springs, Victoria.  Together with his partner Su Dennett, David built a large and long-standing permaculture system that has come to be known as the Hepburn Permaculture Gardens.  The site features a passive solar home, mixed perennial gardens and orchards, water-conserving earthworks, and permaculture livestock management

Another well-known design was implemented at the Fryers Forest Ecovillage near Castlemaine in Victoria.  This project began in the mid 1990s and continues to thrive today, with a community-owned corporation responsible for the management of the community's sustainable forestry and agricultural production.  Fryers Forest has been a successful example of advanced permaculture concepts applied to real world social and ecological conditions. 

Another notable work is Holmgren's design at the Spring Creek Community Forest in Hepburn, Victoria.  The site falls within the Hepburn Regional Park, and is close to Holmgren's home at Melliodora.  A loosely organized group of citizens have been successful in following a permaculture design plan which has used earthworks and patterned planting to reforest an area which had previously been stripped by industrial operations. 

Traditional agriculture was labor intensive, industrial agriculture is energy intensive, and permaculture-designed systems are information and design intensive.

– David Holmgren

David Holmgren Publications

After cooperating with Bill Mollison on Permaculture One, David Holmgren did not publish any major works for some time - focusing instead on the practical application and improvement of the initial concepts.  During this time he did self-publish some works documenting the progress of his designs and installations.

His first significant independent publication would come decades later in 2002 with the self-published Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.  This work was quickly accepted by the permaculture community and has come to be seen as a requisite accompaniment to Mollison's Permaculture: A Designer's Manual

David Holmgren published Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change in 2009.  This book is focuses on the concept of energy decline, and makes many recommendations about how individuals and societies can transition to decreased dependence on fossil fuels. 

Finally, Holmgren teamed up with Peter Bane of Permaculture Activist Magazine (now Permaculture Design Magazine) to write the foreword for Bane's The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country in 2012. 

Image of David Holmgren at Mellidoria

Image from Keith Rhodes channel at YouTube

Where to Learn More About David Holmgren

For a detailed explanation of David Holmgren's permaculture philosophy and teachings, see his authoritative work Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability; or browse through the website www.permacultureprinciples.com, where he is a primary contributor.  For information about David Holmgren, his work, and his installations - see his permaculture design company's website at www.holmgren.com.au

As of this writing, David Holmgren is still an active teacher, offering permaculture design certification courses through various institutions.  You can learn more at his company website, holmgren.com.au.


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