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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 written before about the challenges faced by permaculture enterprises. Farms, like other land-based permaculture projects, are faced with the formidable task of regenerating ecosystems and communities, while surviving in a system that rewards the destruction of the same systems. Permaculture projects have to compete with degenerative enterprises and institutions that are happy to take the efficiency ‘bonus’ from unsustainable and exploitative practices. The consequence is that it’s hard for permaculture enterprises to keep costs as low, and therefore people with less of an economic buffer, who have to minimize costs as much as possible, find it hard to support regenerative enterprises as consumers. That’s most of the world, in case you were wondering. So the regenerative enterprises that we would like to create have a difficult time offering products and services that most people can afford, and most people can’t afford to support the regenerative economy. If we want […]

Confronting the Context: Permaculture and Capitalism

Research Travel Map 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

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

Permaculture Research Concept Map 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

  Great, thought provoking article by Rhamis Kent now up at Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. “Permaculture and Slavery: A Systems Analysis” kicks off a welcome and badly needed discussion of the legacy of African slavery in the development of the US economy – all through the energetic lens of systems ecology, long beloved by permaculturists. Go check it out. You’ll find me in the comments.

Permaculture and Slavery

From the fine people at Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute – with whom I teach every summer. The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute (FLPCI) and The Permaculture Institute of the North East (PINE) are delighted to offer four fellowships for the upcoming Permaculture Design Certification course (PDC) offered this summer, in upstate New York from July 26th through August 11th. This fellowship is both need-based and merit-based. It aims to support community organizers, educators, and activists to share their permaculture knowledge with their communities. We encourage fellows to use their earnings as seed money for community-based permaculture education and activism. Women, people of color, and individuals from other historically marginalized groups are strongly encouraged to apply. We will begin selecting applicants on a rolling basis after April 17, 2013. More information can be found at http://FingerLakesPermaculture.org _______________________________________________

This just in: Permaculture Fellowships for Organizers, Activists and Educators

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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 design challenge, and […]

Adapting the “Scale of Permanence” for diverse design challenges

I’m preparing for my preliminary exams, which are next week. I’ve gone subterranen until after they are done. I will be tweeting from my cave, however.

Where am I?