As permaculture designers, we find ourselves having to answer two questions very frequently: how can we have impact? And, how can we make permaculture guarantee successful harvests? I will explore these questions by exploring one of humanity’s oldest activities: agriculture. Agriculture is essential for human survival and well-being. As permaculturists our work is inherently about soil stewardship; what better place to start than with soil itself? Agriculture based on appropriate technology – principally, farmers know about seeds, soils and water – has been around for millennia. It is not my intent to provide an exhaustive history here but rather focus on current practices of growing crops in soils and draw lessons from them to understand ways that permaculture design principles could be integrated into farming practices to increase sustainability.