Energy is invisible, but the types and amounts of energy used in each human undertaking are good indicators of its impact on the environment.
In our professional practice, we have come to see the farm as a place where many energy flows act and transform matter, more or less efficiently. Becoming aware of these invisible flows helps to increase productivity and sustainability. Good permaculture design saves energy at all levels. Shortening wheelbarrow journeys, for example, by bringing the vegetable washing and packaging area closer to the gardens, reduces fatigue and saves human energy.
We are trying to gradually shift from the use of fossil fuels, polluting and non-renewable, to the use of the sun, which is the farm’s almost exclusive source of energy. Thanks to photosynthesis, fruits and vegetables can be considered as concentrated solar energy, stored and transportable. Organic matter is also solar energy stored in the soil. The work of humans and draught animals, the creation of biomass and the use of natural allies are various forms of use of solar energy.
The use of fossil fuels is not completely excluded and depends on the context. During the initial phase of establishing the plot, it may be wise to call on a service or a neighbour to create ponds and embankments, dig tree planting holes, bring in large quantities of manure, etc. After that, the tools used are manual. A small tiller can however facilitate the creation of permanent beds by loosening the soil before manual digging, and a micro-tiller working only the first 5 cm of soil can be useful for breaking up compost or root debris from the previous crop.