David Holmgren: Permaculture Pioneer and Ambassador of Change

David Holmgren

David Holmgren is a very well known person in the Permaculture movement since it’s beginning, He is a permaculture designer and theorist I read some of his amazing books and work in Permaculture which improved my knowledge and performance in my Permaculture journey.

In this article i will share with you some of his amazing work that will help you get a better understanding about the role of David Holmgren in Permaculture as he is best known for his work in the areas of ecological design, natural building and renewable energy.

In this article you will read the following:

  • What is Permaculture?

  • Who is David Holmgren?

  • How Permaculture was founded?

  • Holmgren’s Vision for the Future: Retro Suburbia

  • David Holmgren’s writing and Projects

  • Conclusion

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is an integrated system of design that draws from many disciplines including organic farming, agroforestry, holistic management, sustainable development, and applied ecology. It is about consciously designing landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. Permaculture as a systematic method was developed largely by observation of natural ecosystems.

Who is David Holmegren ?

David Holmgren is widely regarded as one of the co-originators of the permaculture concept with Bill Mollison. He is an Australian environmental designer, ecological educator and writer.

David Holmgren was born in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia, where he lived, He grew up on a dairy farm, where his interest in agriculture and sustainable systems developed early. He studied Environmental Design at the University of Melbourne.

In 1978 he became a founding director of Melliodora, a permaculture demonstration site in Hepburn Springs that was established by his wife Su Dennett, Geoff Lawton and Nadia McCaffrey.

How Permaculture was founded?

Permaculture was conceptualized in the mid-1970s by Australians David Holmgren and Bill Mollison who, with a group of other young people, were trying to find sustainable human settlement solutions in the face of limited natural resources. It is now a worldwide movement encompassing thousands of people across many countries and continents.

In 1978, Bill Mollison invited David to help research and develop a new sustainable design system that would become known as permaculture. The work culminated in the publication of Permaculture One (1978), the first book of its kind to be published in English.

David is not an author of the 12 Permaculture Design Principles as described by Bill Mollison but did contribute to Mollisons original thinking.

After completing his Masters degree at Tasmania University David co-wrote Permaculture Two with Bill Mollison (1979). Having established an international reputation as a leading permaculture designer and educator during the 1980s, David focused on developing his home property Melliodora in Hepburn Springs that was established by his wife Su Dennett along with Geoff Lawton and Nadia McCaffrey.

Holmgren’s Vision for the Future: Retro Suburbia

In the late 1990s, David Holmgren drew up a map of his home town – the regional centre of Castlemaine in central Victoria. Around the edges he circled the abandoned houses, factories and farms. In the middle he sketched in a grid of streets and blocks. He wondered: what if we could get those empty lots back into production? What if we could re-create a lively, diverse community within this former industrial centre?

For Holmgren, it was not just an idle thought. For more than 30 years he has been helping people to turn their gardens into productive food-growing spaces. He wrote one of the first books on permaculture, a concept he developed with his friend Bill Mollison in the 1970s. Nowadays you can hardly go to a farmers’ market without seeing someone selling organic vegetables they’ve grown in their permaculture garden.

Holmgren’s vision is for suburbanites to band together to create a new kind of community – what he calls “retro suburbia”. This retro suburbia would be based around shared vegetable plots, extensive chicken coops and solar power systems. It would be as self-sufficient as possible – producing its own food and even some of its own energy.


David Holmgren’s writing and Projects

David Holmgren is a worldwide know writer and permaculture designer based in Hepburn Springs, Victoria. He is the author of Future Scenarios: How Communities can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change (2009), co-originator with Bill Mollison of Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, and more recently the book Retrosuburbia: The Downshifter’s Guide to a Resilient Future. David has spoken at conferences and festivals around the world for over 30 years on his vision for a resilient future. He is an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment, University College Dublin and was awarded honorary doctorates by Deakin University in 2010, Swinburne University in 2012 and Murdoch University in 2016.

Here is a full list of David Holmgren’s work:

1978 Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements. Melbourne: Transworld.

1985 Permaculture in the Bush. Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design.

1993 The Flywire House: a case study in design against bushfire. Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design.

1994 Trees on the Treeless Plains: Revegetation Manual for Volcanic Landscapes of Central Victoria. Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design.

1995 “The Permaculture Movement and Education”, in Goldfields Permaculture and Landcarers.

1996 a Melliodora (Hepburn Permaculture Gardens): Ten Years of Sustainable Living. Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design.

1996 b “Fryers Forest Village”, in Green Connections.

1997 “Getting Started”, in Green Connections.

2002 a Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability- Revised. Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design Services.

2002 b David Holmgren: Collected Writings 1978–2000. [eBook on CD] Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design.

2005 Mellidora (Hepburn Permaculture Gardens): A Case Study in Cool Climate Permaculture 1985 – 2005 [eBook] Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design Services.

2006 a Trees on the Treeless Plains: Revegetation Manual for Volcanic Landscapes of Central Victoria. [eBook] Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design.

2006 b David Holmgren: Collected Writings & Presentations 1978 – 2006 [eBook] Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design Services.

2009 Future Scenarios – Community adaption to Peak Oil & Climate Change. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

2011 2011 Permaculture Diary, Marrickville NSW: PcDC Michele Margolis.

2012 “The long view” in Permaculture Pioneers: Stories from the New Frontier, edited by Kerry Dawborn & Caroline Smith, Holmgren Design Services, ISBN 0975078623

2018 RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design, ISBN 9780994392879



David Holmgren is one of the most important figures in permaculture, an organic gardening movement. He’s going to continue teaching at international permaculture gatherings, such as the annual one in Australia. Lots of people have joined the permaculture movement thanks to his work, as well’s his other contributions and writings.

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