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Permaculture in Paradise

34 Years ago Dano Gorsich asked his old permaculture teacher, Bill Mollison, what he should do with his land on the island of Molokai in Hawaii?

Bill explained how he should design his tropical house, how it should face to capture the sea breezes, the sun angles, slope and orientation. Bill also suggested that Dano could earn a living by growing fruit and vegetables and then selling them to his neighbours. Dano literally took this advice to heart and set out to follow it to the letter. Bill Mollison visited Dano over the years afterwards and featured his small garden in his definitive book Permaculture — A Designers’ Manual.

Dano fell off the Permaculture radar for some years, concentrating on selling boxes of fruit and vegetables to his loyal neighbours. This system allowed him to educate his four daughters and put them through university.

Geoff Lawton recently met Dano on the Island of Maui whilst teaching an Earthworks Course and learning of Dano’s 34 Year old Food Forest system.

Dano Gorsich, left, and his wife Robin explaining their system to Geoff Lawton

It’s no easy trek to find Dano’s property. The instructions are a little hazy and you need to cross four rickety footbridges to reach his 1-acre ‘farm’ that towers in the high slopes of Molokai.

As you approach Dano’s property you can’t help noticing the size of the mature tree systems that surround his home. A mighty mango tree towers high into the sky, Jackfruit hang like footballs out of the tree. Star fruit and papaya grow naturally. Tidy small lanes of lettuce and beetroot are carefully watered from the creek by Dano and his wife Robin.

It’s a green jungle of vegetation that takes some time to see the amount of fruit that dots the landscape. On the terrace flat, below the main house, is his duck tractor system. The chickens are gone, replaced by the easier to manage ducks, that are well suited to the wet conditions of this tropical hideaway.

Dano explains his unique system in the video of how it is designed to get better with age. It’s very rare to meet someone like Dano who embodies the term “self-sufficient” and actually walks the talk.

The last TV show he watched was the Dick Van Dyke Show when it played back in the early 1980s. He turned off the TV and never looked back again.


  1. Geoff I really appreciate and value the videos you are posting and it was great to see what happens with a well designed system given time. However, please could we also acknowledge Robin’s contribution. The emphasis on ‘Dano’s property’ and Dano doing all the talking, may not reflect the energy that Robin has also put into the property. I see this focus so often on Landline in Australia and in my community, where farming is a partnership, yet so often the farm is just described as the husband’s farm. I may be wrong in this case and if so i apologise. But if not, could you try going out of your way to get comments from the quieter partners, who are so often the wives! Thanks!

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