Research


1
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 ...


18
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 ...


2
  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



9
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


31
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


Each summer for the last five years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching a permaculture design course with Steve Gabriel of Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute. He’s an inspiring, dedicated, and thoughtful teacher. I’m happy to say that he’s also part of the crew of up and coming permaculturists who are helping reconnect permaculture with scientific research. He’s currently working on a book on forest farming – the cultivation of crops in the forest understory, with Cornell professor Ken Mudge. They are running a crowdfunding campaign in order to visit and document forest farming operations across the US. Their work is worth your support. Check out a podcast interview with Steve, by Scott Mann over at Permaculture Podcast. Then head on over and check out the short video and other info at their crowdfunding campaign. You won’t regret it.  

Forest Farming with Steve Gabriel



1
Summary: Neil Bertrando just authored a great article, in which he adapts my adaptation of the Scale of Permanence to generate some extremely useful strategic discussion of permaculture education and research in the USA. The content of his article is worthy of it’s own discussion, but here I’m just discussing method. Over the past few years I’ve been ‘experimenting’ with the underlying structure of Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence – trying to see what it is about it that makes it so compelling and useful for site analysis and design. My interest has been to see what concepts it might be related to in other disciplines, and how it might be applied in other domains than landscape planning. I’ve come to think of the Scale of Permanence as a form of ordered constraint analysis. At it’s most general, it involves identifying all the most pertinent factors that shape the possibilities and potentials of the […]

Adapting the “Scale of Permanence” for diverse design challenges


By which I mean: we’re almost ready to begin. Changing the Face of Farming concluded tonight, at a triumphant 173% of our original funding goal, or $8645. That this was accomplished without any donations over $500, and very few over $100, is a testament to the power of both crowdfunding and the permaculture network. 164 separate individuals contributed to the campaign! It’s a rare privilege to get to thank 164 people for their support of your work. A great unexpected benefit of this project has been the opportunity to connect with so many inspired and inspiring people, about the importance of all our work – and the place of this research within the much greater project of shifting our world in the direction of a just and sustainable society. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity to connect with so many kindred spirits. It’s worth noting that, as a result, I’m also way […]

And… we’re done!


Status Report I can’t express my gratitude emphatically enough. Today, with five days left in the campaign, we passed the $8000 mark. That’s over 160% of our benchmark! This is obviously great news, and it means that the project will definitely move forward. But it’s not time to rest yet – there is still plenty of good to achieve in these last few days. Incoming funds continue to support the inclusion of more farms in the project, toward the ultimate goal and full sample of 50 farms.   Please help spread the word about this research. If you have friends, family or colleagues who might be interested in supporting science and sustainability, write an email or pick up the phone and let them know how important this project is.   The link for sharing is http://rkthb.co/11800. Why not take it easy? With the crowdfunding project a roaring success, why aren’t I just coasting in to the finish line? There […]

Changing the Face of Farming: Update #3



4
Yesterday we hit our benchmark of $5000. Thanks so much to everyone for all your support –  and it’s not over! There is now enough money to get started, as I continue to seek the funding that will get us to completion. This project will go forward. All donations going forward allow me to include more farms in the project, toward the ultimate goal, and full sample, of fifty farms. Let’s see what we can do in the 18 days left. I’d like to continue to use these updates to talk about not just the fund raising (while it’s happening) but also about the research itself. So, where are we at in the process, and what have we learned so far? First – where we are. The project has four phases. 1. Identify possible permaculture farms – through internet searchers, email list queries, snowball referrals, and this. This has been going on since the summer. 2. […]

Changing the Face of Farming: Update #2


Changing the Face of Farming is over halfway to our goal – after just 10 days of fundraising! The level of support for my research – and for permaculture research – means a tremendous amount to me. Thank you so much, to everyone who has donated and helped spread the word. I thought I’d share a brief update to let you know how things are going with the development of the project. Over 100 farms so far have responded to a preliminary survey. This means we already have a course snapshot of the scale of production on permaculture farms, and the beginning of a sense of how permaculture is influencing farm planning. At this preliminary step, we’ve already increased our understanding of permaculture farms, and generated solid data that was never available before. Very exciting! (I’ll be blogging about this soon, so stay tuned for more analysis.) Over 70 farms so far, […]

Changing the Face of Farming: Update #1