Can we Live From Nature Without Exploiting it? (Part 3/4)

Permaculture is a form of organic farming that creates land without wasting resources or displacing habitats. Friedrich Lehmann von lehmann natur is convinced that this will be the way to feed the world population. Why, he explains in part 3 of our permaculture series.

I’m convinced that twelve billion people can be fed through permaculture and organic agriculture.

Friedrich Lehmann


A system fit for the future - Friedrich Lehmann is fascinated by the concept of permaculture. For over 20 years, the distributor of organic fruit and vegetables has been developing and implementing this approach on his acreage in Spain - with great patience, zeal and remarkable idealism. Through his company Lehmann Natur, he supplies Real with fruit and vegetables from his fincas.

An early morning in late September. The sun is rising over the fields of the Finca Jelanisol in Gibraleón, Andalusia. Although there hasn't been substantial precipitation in over five months, the trees and bushes are resplendent in vibrant green foliage. Instead of the unrelenting monoculture common in Andalusia, botanical diversity reigns here. With its pomegranate and orange trees, herbs and flowers, succulents and high hedges, Jelanisol is all about diversity. This wasn't always the case. "When we took over the finca 20 years ago, conventional monoculture farming was practiced here," says Friedrich Lehmann, the owner of the finca. "At some point it became clear to us that that wasn’t the right way for the future. So we began our transition to permaculture."

When we treat nature with respect, it produces in great abundance.

Friedrich Lehmann

Permaculture is a form of organic farming in which crops are cultivated without wasting resources or displacing natural habitats. Using water sparingly and forgoing artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are important principles of this approach. But to gain a hands-on understanding of this holistic concept, one should come to Jelanisol. A tour of the 52-hectare finca quickly makes clear how the system works. One key factor is the soil – or, more precisely, the humus layer, which is meticulously cultivated here. It contains microorganisms and nutrients, and serves as an important water reservoir. Grasses, flowers, wild mint and fennel grow undisturbed among the fruit and vegetable plants, protecting the earth from drying out. Fields are laid out in keeping with the land’s contours to prevent water from running off too quickly and eroding the soil. Terrace-like hedges provide wind protection and animal habitats.

“We have no doubt that permaculture with organic farming will be the only viable way to feed the world’s population over the long term,” Friedrich Lehmann stresses. And he has long demonstrated that the concept pays off economically: with a team that seasonally swells to around 30 in number, he harvests between 600 and 750 tonnes of fruit and vegetables annually. “The more we build up the soil and the better we understand nature, the higher our yields. However, we aren’t just interested in yield volumes, but rather, first and foremost, in quality.” German consumers can test this quality for themselves, because Friedrich Lehmann delivers the greater part of his harvest – especially pomegranates, kumquats, mangoes and avocados – straight to Real hypermarkets in Germany.