Patrick Whitefield, who died aged 66 after a short illness, drew on his boyhood love of the landscape, plants and animals to become a leading advocate of permaculture, an approach to farming that maintains both food production and the balance of nature. With his guiding principle of “nature as teacher”, he helped transform growers’ attitudes towards permaculture from its previous marginalised status in the debate about sustainable farming.
Patrick’s surname, Whitefield, was taken from a beloved meadow in Somerset that he lived on in a tipi during the 1980s. His first book, Tipi Living, was published in 1987 as Patrick became involved in the Ecology party (later to be known as the Greens). His introduction to permaculture from two Australians triggered what would become his lifelong, pioneering work in permaculture education and publication.
As with so many of those who challenge orthdoxies, the true significance of Whitefield’s ideas was not adequately acknowledged during his lifetime, but his influence will survive him, under the stewardship of the many he influenced. His example will continue to remind food producers that instead of plundering natural capital through industrial agriculture, farmers of the future will have to devise of ways of co-existing with nature.