Can Permaculture Transform Industrial Agriculture?

Industrial Agriculture photoRafter Sass Ferguson/Video screen capture

From clever chicken tunnels to a campus lawn turned no-dig garden, I've written about countless permaculture projects over the years. Some of them, like this peak oil inspired farming project in Britain, are exploring the realms of commercial agriculture—but it's fair to say that permaculture is still often seen as something more often practiced in backyards and community gardens for sustenance, not financial gain.

Part of the reason for that, I think, is about scale. Diversity may be key to mimicking natural systems and achieving truly symbiotic farming, but it is also extremely hard to deal with such complexity on a commercial farming scale.

Crops need to be harvested at around the same time. There needs to be a critical mass of any one crop before it is worth marketing it for sale. And any form of mechanization is hampered by dealing with too many different crops and different styles of planting.

But there are people practicing permaculture, or permaculture-inspired farming, on a commercial scale. Typically that involves some level of adaptation and simplification from the archetypical permaculture food forest. Now Rafter Ferguson, a doctoral student from the University of Illinois, is setting out to conduct a study of permaculture farms across the US, studying what works, what doesn't, and how permaculture techniques might be adapted and scaled up to take a significant dent out of the farming system as we know it. Below is a map of the farms he wants to visit so far.

permaculture farms imageRafter Ferguson/Video screen capture

But all that travel takes money. So Ferguson is crowdfunding his research trip and he needs your help to do it. You can learn more about his work at his blog Liberation Ecology, or you can check out his video below.

I've written before about the dangers of anti-science environmentalism. It's good to see someone taking a different approach.

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