Research


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For the last several years, Eric Toensmeier and I have been working (ever so slowly) on a scientific review of global perennial staple crops. Last year we received an invitation to present our work at the annual American Society of Agronomy conference, in a session that was otherwise composed of perennial grains researchers. This was an exciting opportunity (as well as a deadline to light a fire under our slow progress). Eric and I decided that he would attend and present. He had never had a chance to present at a scientific conference – and more importantly, he has done the vast bulk of the work feeding into this project. He’s been painstakingly combing through scientific and technical literature over the past five years, and assembling a formidable database of 100s of perennial crops. My role in the project has been to help frame that tremendous work in terms of contemporary scientific frameworks, act […]

Perennial Agriculture Now! Our presentation at American Society for Agronomy.


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If I haven’t attended to the website in ages – and I haven’t – it’s because my scarce extracurricular writing time has gone into articles that I couldn’t share until now. I’m very excited to have two articles in the current issue of Permaculture Activist (Autumn 2014, No. 93). The theme of this issue is “Experimentation – Science in Permaculture” and it looks to be a tremendous one all around. Other authors include some dear friends: my long-time co-teacher Steve Gabriel of Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, and the excellent forest gardener and human being we know as Jonathan Bates. I’m also happy to appear alongside newer friends and colleagues I’ve connected with over the past few years: Abbie Conrad (writing on  her tremendous work on permaculture among smallholder farmers in Malawi), Chris Warburton-Brown from the UK Permaculture Research Brigade, and Christopher Kelly-Bisson (of the new permaculture e-journal The Rhizome). Plus, bonus people I […]

Toward 21st Century Permaculture: new articles


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I made minor contributions to this very interesting poster presentation at the Radical Emission Reduction Conference held by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the Royal Society in London on December 10-11 2013. My hat is off to Ed Sears (of the Earth Systems Science Research Group at Exeter), the main mover behind the project, as well as to the other co-authors Chris Warburton-Brown (UK Permaculture Research Initiative) and Tomas Remiarz (UK Permaculture Association). Download the poster and handout here. [wpdm_file id=4]

Permaculture as evolutionary social learning organization





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A new graduate research position has just been funded in the Multifunctional Landscape Analysis and Design Laboratory. This is a great opportunity for a permaculturist with GIS experience who want to do research on design and economic issues at the farm-scale. If you’re interested, think about applying by the end of January. If you’re really interested, I recommend making contact as soon as possible. Download link is below the flyer. [wpdm_file id=3]

New grad position in Multifunctional Perennial Cropping Systems research



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I want to say “at long last” but really it’s been a relatively quick process, given the going pace of academic publication. It’s just been in any-day-now land for several weeks, so I’ve been experiencing very faint shades of when my mom made us kids sit and eat a nice breakfast before opening Xmas presents. The paper will be Open Access at Springer – in Agronomy for Sustainable Development, in case you missed it – but right now it’s stuck behind a paywall. I’ll continue to host it here in any event. If you would care to point people at this post rather than emailing the article around, I’d be grateful. Thanks! 11/10/2013 Update: As Dana points out below, it’s no longer stuck behind the paywall. 11/18/2013 Update: If you are on ResearchGate, please download through my RG profile here: ResearchGate.PermacultureForAgroecology Apparently it helps boost some statistic that may be […]

“Permaculture for Agroecology” is out!


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My research travel has taken a slight detour. I’ve had to fly home to deal with an urgent, but non-life-threatening, medical situation. I’m now recovering well after minor surgery, and will be getting back out on the road shortly. It was frustrating to abandon part of an itinerary that I had put so much time into assembling, farm by farm, but… sometimes you just have to roll with it. Ultimately, I’m just happy to be healing well and getting back out there. Hopefully I will find a way to get back out to that stretch of southern Oregon to central California before all is said and done. But I’ll be going east before I go back west. Next weekend, I’ll be presenting twice at the Yale Food Systems Symposium. I’m happy to be sitting on a panel on Permaculture in Academia, as well as giving a presentation entitled “Recovering the Future: Food System Transition […]

From the field – and the sickbed. And then the ...


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I just got the official word that my paper Permaculture for Agroecology: Design, Practice, Movement, and Worldview  has been accepted for publication in the  agroecology journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development. This is the first hard look at permaculture in any peer-reviewed natural science literature that I’m aware of, so I’m pretty excited to be getting this into print – especially in a journal like ASD. [EDIT] So now that it’s official, I’m making a preprint of the article available for download I’m uploading a copy to the eprint archive server dedicated to sustainable agriculture research, orgprints.org. It will be available for download for there shortly. As this is a late-draft preprint, the final published form may differ slightly, or not at all, from this version. I’ll link to the final version, as well as make it available here, when it’s finally published. I had high hopes for orgprints.org, but they have been totally unresponsive. In any […]

New review of the permaculture literature in Agronomy for Sustainable ...



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  I’ve now been on the road since July 2nd, with the exception of four days home earlier this month. The rest of 2013 is going to feature about a month at home, all told. The map above shows a draft of the routes I’m traveling and the rough locations of the farms I’m visiting. Things often end up changing a bit once I’m actually on a route, as you might imagine. I’ve done my first pass at the northeastern route, and I’m most of the way through the southeastern route as I write. I’ve been to about half of the Great Lakes Region farms. Coming up next is the biggest chunk: the West Coast / Southwest route: 23 farms in two months. It’s exhausting and intense – and there is nothing I would rather be doing in the world. I’m visiting permaculture-identified farming operations all over the country. I’m spending, […]

Field Research: The Overdue Update #1


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My response can’t do this discussion the justice it deserves, but given that my current choice is between debate on the internet and being ready for field research, I’m going to presume on your understanding for any clumsiness, typos, lack of formatting, etc. Let’s not descend into arguments about taxonomy (i.e. the ‘real’ definition of movement) – the tedium will drive me quickly back to the statistical analysis of survey data. The tensions animating this discussion are about cultural identity and competing theories of history – they aren’t about the definition of movement. Jason mentions a fear factor, and it’s a reasonable observation. There is a lot at stake. But let’s apply it fairly, and notice how fear informs his and Toby’s position as well. They’re trying to defend permaculture from a perceived threat – the messiness, confusion, and stigma that comes with being a movement (or just being described […]

Continuing the Conversation – Permaculture as a Movement


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Now that Toby’s interesting essay (in response to my post on definitions in permaculture is making the rounds, I think it warrants a reply. (Some of this post assumes some prior knowledge of those posts, and a general awareness of agroecology). If you haven’t read Toby’s piece, he’s making an argument that permaculture is really, fundamentally, a design discipline – and that’s how we should regard it. It’s not a movement, a set of practices, or a worldview, and we shouldn’t confuse it with those things. It’s clear how  this reduction could be attractive for people who are interested in supporting the professional sector in permaculture, and Toby makes his argument well. His definition tidies up a messy ecosystem, drawing clear boundaries that focus attention on a single aspect of interest. While such linear and reductive thinking can be useful in the right context, in this case it does not serve. Permaculture’s spread […]

the convenience and poverty of simple definitions