My Writings. My Thoughts.
This is it, folks! The campaign closes at midnight, EST (GMT-5).
It’s not too late to contribute, or help spread the word – but it will be in a few hours.
That link to share is: http://rkthb.co/11800.
Thanks to all for all your support.
Teaming up with Eric Toensmeier and a fearsome team of permaculture & local economy mavens to teach this innovative course next month! Hosted by the amazing folks at Earth Learning. We’ll be designing four enterprises for real-world implementation: farm, cafe, commercial kitchen, and food hub. You can probably guess which design team Eric and I are on? Click on the image to view at full size, and click here to learn more and register.
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!
Why not take it easy?
Do you think any Fairfieldians would appreciate having a friendly agroecologist on their couch for the weekend?
I’d love to go out to Drought Proofing Your Farm, with the inimitable Darren Doherty and I can get a ride with the great folks at Midwest Permaculture - but I’m still working on some el cheapo accommodations.
That this trip is even a remote possibility is due the event being sponsored by several regional sustainable agriculture organizations (which you can see on the event site, linked to above) – so props to them. The weekend ticket (not including food/housing) is $100, and $25 for students. This is how I like to see permaculture education being done!
If you aren’t familiar with Darren’s work – he’s as real as it gets. And his Australian perspective is sadly more and more relevant for the North American Midwest, as our summers grow to resemble’s Australia’s own inimical climate.
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. Administer a short preliminary survey of all farms / potential research sites, to assess (a) level of influence by permaculture, and (b) scale of production. I’m looking for strong influence, because sometimes permaculture is one buzzword among many – and I’m interested in the farms that strongly identify with permaculture itself. And I’m looking for a strong production element, across a variety of farm sizes – because sometimes the word ‘farm’ gets applied to an educational project… or to a bed and breakfast!
3. Field research, and 4. Analysis and write-up.
Phase 1 is about ready to wrap up, and Phase 2 will probably finish with the year. (Yes, the phases are overlapping. You didn’t think these would be neat linear process did you?) So far I’ve only done any analysis on 75-90 responses to the (very) short preliminary survey. Without getting too deeply into it, here are some interesting patterns in this early analysis.
These are not hobby farmers.
65% of farmers surveyed do not have another major occupation. This is a higher proportion of full-time:part time farmers than the national average – which is about 50%.
Permaculture farmers are earning their living on relatively small plots of land.
This doesn’t come as a big surprise – but it does run against the grain of what you might expect based on the previous figure. Are permaculture farmers doing more with less? It’s tempting to jump to conclusions here – and I know some of you will anyway – but I’ll refrain.
This figure shows the distribution of (surveyed) permaculture farms by rural/urban setting. In a very widely cited figure (originally from the USDA - maybe), 15% of global food production takes place in urban areas – which includes peri-urban areas (aka suburbs and sprawl). While I don’t, this moment, have a figure for the US, I think it’s safe to assume that our domestic proportion of urban production is much lower. These figure suggest that the distribution in the more permaculture sector more closely resembles the global average. Note that I’m counting farms, and the global figure is counting total production, so this is just suggestive – not a rigorous comparison. That’s ok – we’re still very much in the well isn’t that interesting stage.
That’s all for now! These figures are really just pointers – a little bit of course-grained data, that can point us toward interesting questions to answer later. At the same time, I have to confess: this is pretty exciting. We know things that we didn’t know before. As I say in the video – I didn’t think that their were enough permaculture farms in the US to learn anything significant from.
So the first watershed moment of this project has been the opportunity to prove myself wrong. That’s one of the things I appreciate about the scientific community – as opposed to religion, and too often politics. We can seek out evidence to test our assumptions and theories, and find that evidence, and change our views - and like it. That’s a gift – and one that I think we can have more of in the permaculture movement.
Thanks to all for your support. Please give what you can, and help spread the word.
What do you think?
Is the permaculture community vulnerable to self-confirming assumptions and theories?
Do we exclude evidence that doesn’t fit with out worldview?
Do these preliminary findings confirm or conflict with your own expectations?
Let me know in the comments.
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, from all over the country, have said they want to participate in the project.
This is fantastic, because it means we’ll have a large and diverse pool of farms to work with, and thereby a more diverse and meaningful sample. The larger the pool of potential sites we have to select the ~50 farms, the greater our ability to identify patterns in farm size and scale of production, and visit several farms at each level, in multiple ecoregions.
If you are interested in seeing this research project meet its goals for incorporating the full sample of 50 farms, there is a critical contribution you can make - regardless of whether you can donate cash: help spread the word.
- Think of people who should hear about this project. Pick a target: 3, 10, 20 people. Phone or email them directly. Tell them why you donated to the project, and why you think it’s important. Feel free to give these folks my e-mail address as well as the link to the project page (http://rkthb.co/11800).
- Share a link to the project (http://rkthb.co/11800)on whatever social networks you are part of: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and email lists. Tell your networks why you donated, and why you think it’s important.
- If you can think of fund-raising opportunities that I should look into, let me know.
And to those who have already taken these steps: thank you so much.
Deciding that you want to study permaculture is pretty easy. Dangerously easy. Even forgetting our dire need for sustainable design, and considering it just as a straight-up researcher for a minute (taking off my activist-scholar hat), it’s pretty juicey: complex, timely, controversial, and growing fast. And it’s wide open: there is almost, but not quite, zero peer-reviewed research about it. (That’s both an opportunity and a stumbling block, actually, but more on that in another post.)
It’s after that decision - once you’re walking around with this idea in your head that you want to study permaculture – that the trouble starts. This is especially true for higher education, and especially especially if you want to do research. As I mentioned earlier, permaculture suffers from a mild definitional crisis: what is this thing? Our answers tend to veer toward the abstract and all-encompassing. Look at the suite of definitions over here.
For that matter, look at the definition that I came up with back in 2005 (and which I’ve been gratified to see has caught on pretty well). Permaculture is…
meeting human needs while
increasing ecosystem health.